Miracle on 34th Street | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Miracle on 34th Street

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Miracle on 34th Street, Chicago Center for the Performing Arts. Now in its second holiday coming, David Cromer's slick adaptation of the beloved 1947 film classic aspires to be cooler than its source while preserving as much sentimentality as possible in an update. It's an uneasy truce: the theatrical in-jokes and stereotypical Big Apple overachievers mingle uncertainly with the wistful real-life Santa who refuses to become a toy pimp. Cromer's staging lurches from Saturday Night Live to Touched by an Angel in seconds flat.

What roots it and sells it is Bradley Mott's solidly grounded Kris Kringle. The integrity of Mott's Santa--who never has a second thought once he sets up shop--gives even the most insistent jokes and tedious sight gags (like a stupid floppy-puppy toy) a context. Few Santas can sing "I'm Coming to Town" and not forfeit their dignity in this gooey Bill Murray moment.

In the Maureen O'Hara role of the jaded mother so burned by men that she doubts even Santa, Sarah Wellington verges on type A stridency when she means to show protective concern. Her excesses are tempered by Meredith Maresh as the cynical daughter (alternating in the role with Lauren A. Mandel) and Tracy Letts as the good-hearted lawyer next door. Bill McGough, twinkling as an addlepated Mr. Macy, brings fun to the overlong competency hearing, a drawn-out resolution to the story followed by an equally long epilogue.

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