Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Regional Reviews

The Real Santa Claus Comes to ATL
Albuquerque Little Theater

Nick Fleming, Diane Villegas, John DuBois and Elise Klingler
He certainly looks like Santa Claus, and he talks like Santa Claus, but a judge has to decide whether he is the real Santa Claus or simply a delusional old man. That's the crux of Miracle on 34th Street, now at Albuquerque Little Theatre. The script is based on the 1947 20th Century Fox movie that featured a young Natalie Wood. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture and won the award for best screenplay by Valentine Davis. The story was adapted for the stage by Mountain Community Theater.

The movie has been a holiday staple for decades. Kris Kringle opens the show watching a drunk Santa in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. He is so indignant, he complains to the parade's director, Doris Walker. She persuades Kris to take the drunk's place, and she's so taken with his authenticity, she hires him as Macy's santa. What she doesn't realize is that he actually believes he is Santa Claus.

As Macy's Santa, he puts the children's needs before the needs of Macy's. while this causes initial consternation with Doris and Mr. Macy, Kris' attitude turn out to be a public relations boon for Macy's, and Kris is praised and encouraged. Macy's HR psychologist see trouble with Kris' apparent delusions and contrives to have him committed to a mental institution.

In the middle of all this trouble, Doris' daughter, Susan, and Doris' next door neighbor and suitor, Fred Gayley, take a liking to Kris. Through it all, there are little oddball moments that indicate Kris has special powers and may after all be the real Santa.

The Albuquerque Little Theatre is on a Christmas roll. The past two Christmases I've seen A Christmas Story and It's a Wonderful Life. Both were excellent, and now Miracle on 34th Street makes it a sweet trio. Director Henry Avery brings his deep theater experience to the production and blows life into this charming tale.

The performances by a dozen or so children, of course, steal the show. But the performances are wonderful all the way around the stage. Diane Villegas is fine as Doris Walker, and Elsie Klingler is terrific as Doris' daughter Susan. Other main characters also put in strong performances: Nick Fleming as Fred Gayley, Tim Nguyen as Dr. Pierce, and Tina Andrews as Ms. Shellhammer. Standouts include Dehron Foster as Leslie Sawyer and longtime theater supporter Hugh Witemeyer as Judge Harper.

The star of the show, of course, is Santa Claus, and John DuBois does a fabulous job with the role. Clearly, he needed no makeup to present a convincing Santa. He's bright and winning throughout.

As with many Albuquerque Little Theatre productions, the scenic design (Colby Martin Landers), costume design (Lila Martinez) and props (Nina Dorrance) are great. Scenes change dramatically in a matter of seconds. This is a warm holiday show for everyone in the family.

Miracle on 34th Street will run at Albuquerque Little Theatre, 224 San Pasquale SW, through December 24. The show starts at 7:30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:00 pm on Sundays. There will be special performances at 7:30 pm on Thursday, December 12, and at 7:30 pm on Christmas Eve, December 24. Tickets are $22 for adults, $20 for seniors (65 and above), $18 for students (13 and above), and $10 for children (12 and under). You can buy tickets online at or by phone at 242-4750, ext. 2.

Photo: Billy Nguyen

--Rob Spiegel

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