For Patrick Quinn, playing Santa Claus is much more about the right feel and not so much the right look.
“No one needs to dress up in fairy-tale clothes to bring the power of love and kindness to others,” said Quinn, who plays Kris Kringle in the Home Made Theater production of Valentine Davies’ holiday classic, “Miracle on 34th Street,” opening Friday and running through Dec. 20 at the Spa Little Theater in Saratoga State Park.
“I believe that that spirit is needed much more than ever in the world today as the gap between the poor and the rich grows greater than ever.”
‘Miracle on 34th Street’
WHERE: Home Made Theater, Spa Little Theater in Saratoga State Park, Saratoga Springs
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18, 1 and 4:30 p.m. Dec. 19, and 1 p.m. Dec. 20
HOW MUCH: $18-$12
MORE INFO: 587-4427, www.homemadetheater.org
Quinn, a native of Ireland and a retired Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute professor, is a big fan of the 1947 film “Miracle on 34th Street,” with Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle and also starring Maureen O’Hara and Natalie Wood.
He also enjoyed but is not quite so much a fan of the 1994 Hollywood remake with Richard Attenborough as Santa. Quinn would have played it differently.
“The film with Richard Attenborough put me off a bit because he wore the fake beard and fake hair and everything else,” said Quinn. “I didn’t want to do that, and it’s not nearly as shallow a play as that. It’s a very well-written play and while we tend to dismiss it as a little light Christmas entertainment, there’s much more to it than that.
“I think of Kris Kringle as a vehicle the author uses to explain the sheer humanity of Christmas and how it can transcend our day-to-day lives. The real message is timeless and profound.”
Former Saratoga Race Course announcer finds himself on different turf in Christmas play.
Laurie Larson is directing the Home Made production, while sharing the stage with Quinn are Laura Graver as Doris and Frank Perilli as Fred. Katherine Roginski, a student at Maple Avenue Middle School, plays Susan, a young girl who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus. That all changes when Quinn’s character, who believes he actually is Santa Claus, lands a job with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and enters Susan’s life.
“It means that every person can be Santa Claus in the real and not the fairy-tale sense,” said Quinn, who was dean of RPI’s School of Architecture before retiring in 2000.
“So you see why I have to emphasize the continued real presence of Kris Kringle, the extraordinarily ordinary guy who sees no reason to fake anything, and who is certainly not faking the spirit that enables him to help people change their lives.”
There are 28 people in the cast, many of them children.
“They are just wonderful actors,” said Quinn. “They’re very smart, so we’re having a lot of fun. I raised six children myself, so to me they’re all very interesting.”
Based on 1946 novella
The play “Miracle on 34th Street” is based on the 1946 novella by Davies. The movie won three Oscars when it came out a year later. In 1963, Meredith Willson converted it into a stage play named “Here’s Love,” but it had a short run on Broadway and was not very successful.
The stage adaptation being used by Home Made Theater is the version first produced by Mountain Community Theater in Ben Lomond, California in 1983. It has been a popular choice for community theaters around the country ever since.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]