“Small house,” Alex Mialdo mutters, glancing over a mostly empty studio peanut gallery before making his way to the piano.
Quiet please! We are on the air in 5…4…3…2…1…
Cue the breezy jingle for Radio KSDMT in “dazzling downtown San Diego.” Belt out the jazzy theme song for a cigarette named after a “moisture-retaining mammal.”
Ah yes, and because it’s Christmas, here’s a selection of traditional carols…only set to a post-war swing that’ll get even the Grinch up on his feet and snapping his fingers.
And now, without further ado….
Listen, if you want to watch “Miracle on 34th Street,” this is certainly the time of the year for it. But you’ve probably seen it so many times you can mouth her lines before young Natalie Wood does.
So maybe this year you might want to experience your Christmas “Miracle” with a tasty side of radio magic.
Because radio can make you believe anything.
That Mr. Macy would shake hands with Mr. Gimbel. That giants float over the streets of New York City. And that a little girl with the skepticism of a jaded 34-year old can believe in Santa Clause.
And you don’t have to squeeze into a radio station’s dusty cheap seats to let your imagination run rampant.
Just book an evening at The Hippodrome and experience a rhythmic reenactment of the 1947 Lux Radio broadcast of “Miracle On 34th Street.” (Running Nov. 26 through Dec. 23.)
We’re talking six actors (count ‘em, six) playing a cast of dozens, maybe even hundreds. Seven microphones (count ‘em). A piano player that nobody’s gonna want to shoot.
And the most high-tech sound effects money can buy: A spinning Rolodex, half a coconut shell, a glass of water and a straw, kazoos, Tupperware, a bicycle wheel and a pint-sized door that aspires to bigger things.
Hipp veteran Bryan Mercer is Alex, piano player and narrator for this two hours of radio miracles. He keeps everyone else in tempo and, more or less, on task, as actors scurry and roles constantly change.
Consider him the show’s MCC (Master of Controlled Chaos).
But here’s the thing. Even Mercer fades into the background whenever Carson Holley is on air. Holley’s Susan was previously known to her radio fans as “Sissy the 7-year-old space pirate.” But when “Miracles” commences this pint-sized pro is as buttoned-down as a kid can be whose divorced mom doesn’t want her harboring any illusions about life, the universe or anything.
Enter David Carey Foster as Kris Kringle (aka Santa). The previous Macy’s Santa having been caught “tight as a knot,” reeking “to high heaven of booze,” Kris is enlisted at the last minute to pilot Santa’s sleigh in the Macy’s Day Parade.
Which wouldn’t be a problem if Kris didn’t keep insisting to everybody who cared to listen that he is, in fact, the real Santa. And that he disapproves heartily of exactly the sort of Christmas commercialism that Macy’s made famous.
Which brings us to Laura Hodos as Doris, mother of Susan, promoter-in-chief of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade fantasy and possessor of a “cast iron shell that’s hard to penetrate.”
That’s the assessment of David Patrick Ford’s Fred, a not-so-hard-bitten lawyer who, unlike Doris, is ready to believe anything. In the penultimate courtroom scene, Ford has a fine old time simultaneously arguing for both the prosecution and the defense.
Rounding out this versatile cast is Sophia Young, who does anything else that needs doing and does it with style, grace and a “Do you believe this?” grin that’s wider than the Hudson River.
There’s a lot happening all at once in The Hipp’s recreated radio studio, but director Stephanie Lynge manages to keep everybody more or less on the same page, save for an occasional plunge into improv.
“Reality is banality,” somebody says. This “Miracle on 34th Street” is anything but banal.