• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Miracle on 34th Street

E-mail Print

If you had looked for an alternative to the plethora of productions of The Christmas Carol this year, you’d have encountered a delightful Christmas show at Pasadena Playhouse.  If you’re old enough to remember radio drama, you’d be drawn to the Playhouse’s staging of the original script for the 1947 broadcast of Miracle on 34th Street; if not for you, at least to share with your kids and grandkids.

As New Yorkers are aware, 34th Street is the location of the original Macy’s, the last retail outlet still standing in this tale of a department store Santa who truly believes he is the real thing. Since the black and white movie is such a perennial on television, the story is familiar.  Santa needs no introduction to children everywhere, but the adults have trouble with the concept of a real Kris Kringle, even to the point of  (Bah, humbug) taking the hapless fellow to court. Of course there is a love story and a family in need of completion, and it all ties up neatly at the end of less than 90 minutes.

But the real star on the Pasadena Playhouse stage is the process of radio itself. Front and center we find the foley artist, Jeff Gardner, who wields his electronic-less effects with panache. Cameron Watson, too, conducts his actors as if in a finely tuned orchestra.  Headlined by Alfred Molina as Kris Kringle, the 10-person cast provides a host of voices in parts large and small to tell the story.  The centerpiece of the radio-play is little Susan Walker, admirably voiced by young Cecilia Witt in a performance that will raise the ambitions of most attending children.  Peri Gilpin plays her mother (an unexplained single mom; well, the war) in a fetching 1947 suit and hat.  Her champion, Fred Galley, played by Larry Poindexter, is dressed in wide-lapelled suit and wide tie, and both are courtesy of costumer Kate Bergh.

Since radio is a listener’s medium, the magnificently revolving rear projections (designed by Hana Sooyeon Kim) and artfully placed Christmas decorations are even more crucial.  The entire effect takes audiences back in time, ready for the snow that descends during the final moments of the performance. It makes for a nostalgic theatre experience for those who remember simpler days, or so we would like to imagine.  But for me, at least, the message, “Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to,” while harmless in terms of Santa, grates on the ear in this age when plenty of people seem to have adopted just that idea, with devastating consequences.

Miracle of 34th Street had a limited run through December 23rd. Pasadena Playhouse resumes with the delightful Pirates of Penzance on January 23rd, 2018. The theater is located at 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena  91101. For 2018 season and single tickets, phone (626) 356-7529, online: or at the box office from 12 N to 6:00 PM daily.



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.