...Miracle on 34th Street, which I’ve been in before in a very different version that once played in Atlantic City and in another year a short West Coast tour, and yes, there is a story in that bizarre tale of the road and shows closing. In that version my track was Drunk Santa, various participants in the Macy parade and Mr. Macy himself. This time I’m in the once called Here’s Love by Meredith Wilson version of the show and playing the man himself, Kris Kringle. It was a daunting task that was before me all those weeks ago and at this writing with but two shows left, I’m trusting I won’t forget it still is. I mean I’m playing a man who believes he is Santa Claus and has to make that a credible thing to any and all on and offstage. Faithful readers will know how hard it is to get me into see a movie so they won’t be surprised I never saw the most recent incarnation with Richard Attenborough as Kris, but I do recall Sebastian Cabot in a 70s TV version, saw the version Fox put on TV in the 50s under a different title with Thomas Mitchell as Kris and tried to do my research. It’s odd how flat those versions play. Of course I know the original film, which nowadays we can watch whenever we demand but in my childhood it was only on a few times a year and always welcomed times. To me, Edmund Gwen has always been the real Santa. BTW, I’m happy that in my bio for this show’s program I added, for the children’s sake, how pleased I am to be in a stage adaptation of my favorite documentary film.
So what to do? Well, this script varies a lot from the original story but there are many similar moments so I’ve tried along the way to find the moments visual and vocal. The stage pictures work thanks to the wonderful wardrobe department who’ve designed costumes, prosthetic hair and maintained them and me in them all these weeks. Vocally, I’ve had an interesting journey and worked on the gentle, lyrical lilt that Gwen had in so many roles. It has struck me that it is a similar lilt to Stan Laurel’s and given my size the only way I’m going to play anyone like Stan. The good news is that when I summon my inner Edmund Gwen, I’ve room for several of them with room leftover. Whatever my ultimate technique, and I’ll not know it until well after the show closes, my love of the film and how I grew up getting some things, not others and then different things in the story that maybe I’ve done an alright job with him because my personal journey with the old movie shows me how to find a way of making this my own.
I see my last two shows ahead of me. Well, regulars know how I like to plan and prepare for things. I’ll get ready and shortly after my five-minute call I’ll make my way over to the stage right wings and preset myself in the chair on the wagon of Fred’s apartment. I’ve been doing this all along. Some of the local children who are balloon handlers, clowns and reindeer in the parade and then return as soldiers in the toy ballet will start gathering for “places” and I’ll chat with a few. I’ve no idea who any of them are because in the dark without my glasses I’m de facto blind, but it’s been fun talking about our careers with them. The curtain speech over I’ll get to my spot by the curtain in two as the overture starts and bless myself, look up and say an internal, “thank you,” as it plays. Coda and I’m blessing myself again ready for my cue. Enter.
Right now the show in memory runs as a jolly nice montage for me and I’m comfortable in my offstage routine so I can go out and do my job, which is… What is my job playing Kris Kringle? How am I doing this part and getting away with it? Well, I guess it has to be to make him, it, me, make everything real. To make them believe. On a very personal note I want to share that if I have a bad day before a show I know that come Curtain Call I’m going to know for sure that I am loved, but who is the chap they’re applauding? Well, ultimately it’s the chap we’re all thinking of, Edmund Gwen, but Kris Kringle is in there too. All of our memories of him over the years are in there too. I know I’m the one out there, the one saying the lines, singing and telling the story, making them remember Mr. Gwen so maybe a bit of that is in there for me too…
For the bastard son who’s got to do the same biz with Singin' In The Rain, I know he’s going to be fine, no, gangbusters in the role because I know one can learn what to do when we have to play those moments, memories and magic that everyone knows. Make it ours, make it your own and let the love you have for what we get to do anyway, which is performing for people, but in these iconic moments in particular, let the love we have for all that magic we’ve loved for years get us through the work and onto the stage. When we get it really right people will see the movie again and wonder why the station airing it cut the bit out that was only in the stage version because we made it that real for all of us.