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Spokane Civic Theatre brings ‘Miracle on 34th Street: A Radio Play’ to stage, airwaves

In 1947, the world around was introduced to “Miracle on 34th Street.”

Though the Christmas movie, about a man who, after filling in for an intoxicated mall Santa, claims to be the real Santa Claus, premiered in early June, it quickly became a hit with critics and audiences alike.

Since then, the film, which stars Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle, the story has been remade (the 1994 film starred Richard Attenborough as Kringle) and adapted into a Broadway musical called “Here’s Love” and a stage play, three different television movies and even a puppet show.

In the same year the movie was released, it was also adapted into a radio play by Lux Radio Theater, with the original cast reprising their roles.

The next year, Lux Radio Theater again performed “Miracle on 34th Street,” this time without Wood as Susan Walker, and the movie was adapted as a half-hour radio play for “Screen Director’s Playhouse.”

Spokane Civic Theatre will bring the Lux Radio Theater script to its stage for “Miracle on 34th Street: A Radio Play” on Friday and Saturday.

The production stars director Jerry Sciarrio (William Keighly/Mr. Sawyer/Judge), Gary Pierce (Kris Kringle), Sarah Dahmen (Doris Walker), Preston Loomer (Fred Gailey), Jason Johnson (Mr. Shellhamer/Mr. Mara), David Hardie (Mr. Macy/Holloran/Postman), Kearney Jordan (Mrs. Mara/Libby Collins/Mother 2/Mother 3/Miss Prawn), Lulu Stafford (Mother 1/Nurse/Mrs. Shellhammer/Helena Sorrell), Dacey Else (Susan Walker), Logan West (Alfred/Louie/Bailiff), Aiden Else (Boy 1), Brody Else (Tommy Mara/Boy 2) and Addy McAllister (Gina/Lux Soap girl).

Sciarrio is replacing an actor who had to drop out of the production.

Though larger radio stations would often hire a full cast of actors for radio plays, even if the character only had two or three lines, smaller stations had actors double, triple or even quadruple up on roles, like Stafford, Jordan, Hardie and Sciarrio are doing.

“It’s a good challenge for the actors as well, trying to differentiate the characters, give them a little different sound so that the listening audience can appreciate the fact that it is a different character,” Sciarrio said. “Then it’s enjoyable for the studio audience to see the same actor step up to the microphone and do something a little different.”

To match the feel of a radio play, the stage will feature the seated cast, microphones, a table where stage manager Samantha Stayert and various actors will create sound effects and an organ for scene change and mood music.

“If you close your eyes, you’d feel like you’re sitting on the living room floor listening to an old radio show,” Sciarrio said.

In true radio play fashion, the first night of “Miracle on 34th Street: A Radio Play” will be broadcast on KPBX 91.1, an element Sciarrio said is keeping the “top flight” cast on their toes.

The cast has only been rehearsing since Sunday, but the lack of memorization and blocking involved in a radio play has made things easier, and Sciarrio was pleasantly surprised with how well that first rehearsal went.

“After we read through it, I felt fairly confident that we would not only have it ready to go by Friday, by maybe Wednesday,” he said.

After two successful years of performing “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Radio Play” during the holidays, Spokane Civic Theatre switched up its newfound tradition with “Miracle on 34th Street: A Radio Play.”

No matter the story, the radio play format has audiences, and actors, clamoring for more.

“For Christmas, there’s not a lot of radio scripts available of stories that are as well known, as well loved, as iconic for the Christmas holiday as ‘Wonderful Life’ and then ‘Miracle on 34th Street,’ ” Sciarrio said. “Matter of fact, some of the actors last night at our rehearsal asked me ‘So are we going to do this again next year too?’ ”

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