Niece Katie was once my co-reviewer for shows like this one, but she is now 17, a high school senior and a waitress, so our 10-year granddaughter, Hannah, was my companion for Saturday afternoon’s performance of the holiday classic "Miracle on 34th Street" by Home Made Theater at the Spa Little Theater in Saratoga Spa State Park.
Because it’s the season for Top 10 Lists, here are our choices of 10 highlights from this family-friendly production:
10: The moment Mrs. Sawyer (Susan Dantz) gets fired! Just as Mr. Potter is the scourge of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the Grinch is the eponymous baddie of that Seuss standard, so is Mrs. Sawyer the one we’re glad to see swept from the stage because of her strict interpretation of “normal.”
9: The radio announcer/Drunken Santa/Mr. Macy: AKA Tom Durkin, an old pro who makes each character funny and credible. And speaking of old pros, let me acknowledge the work of Charles Fitz-gerald as the Judge and Rick Wissler as Charlie. Their scenes crackle.
8: “It’s funny, cool and cute.” A general fifth-grade appraisal. I take it to mean that Hannah admires the vision of Stacey Mayette Barnes, HMT’s producing manager, heading an all-hands-on-deck production staff, whose names take up the entire third page of the playbill.
7: The 1940s clothing, by Sherry Recinella, which looks smashing on everyone.
6: The set by Kevin Miller & Andrea Nice. Scene follows scene follows scene, but thanks to their imagination, the set is multipurposed, and the changers do their job in fairly short order.
5: Laura Graver and Katie Roginski, who ably shoulder the show as hard-boiled mother and daughter, only to be redeemed by the love of a good man, played by the charming Frank Perilli.
4: The Elves. OK, perhaps they’re not as naughty as David Sedaris’ elf, but they have a certain sassiness that spices up the proceedings. Thanks to Kelly Collins, Meghan McVaigh, Jake Rogan, Brielle Wheeler and Regan Zlotnick for being such a quirky quintet.
3: Winnie Bowen, as Dr. Pierce, who makes something authentic of every line she delivers and every gesture she makes. In this fine actress’s hands, Pierce is three-dimensional.
2: Patrick Quinn, as Kris Kringle. This Santa is a no-nonsense man of quiet conviction. Author Valentine Davies’ depiction of the jolly old gent is grandfatherly without being treacly. Kringle knows he doesn’t have to protest too much that he really IS Santa because reason will finally prompt the naysayers to cry “Amen!” Quinn’s easygoing performance is a pleasure to behold.
1: Director Laurie Larson, who moves her cast of 28 around the sprawling stage with purpose, creating appealing tableaux and eliciting outstanding work from all in the climactic courtroom scenes.
On our way to the car after the show, I heard a mother ask her son about his favorite moments and the play’s meaning. It’s that kind of experience.