Sunset brings back classic holiday favorite

By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic

December 11, 2014

WAUKESHA - “Miracle on 34th Street” originated in a black and white film in 1947. It has survived the ravages of time and is still a Christmas favorite. 

The original version starred John Payne, Maureen O’Hara and Edmund Gwynn. The present one at the Sunset Playhouse stars Allison Chicorel, Jared Kuehn (an Aaron Rodgers look-alike) and Gary Rohn, and though not perfect, is quite a worthy production.  

Just as in the recent play “Harvey,” this story questions who or what is normal. Are delusions a sign of mental illness, or are they the result of imagination and possibility and faith, fantasies that stretch the bounds and limitations of reality?  

To review the story, a man claims to be Kris Kringle, the true Santa Claus. He carries the true message of Christmas, but is hired by Macy’s to push their overstock of toys, to make a commercial venture successful. At some point, despite his popularity with the public, he is committed to a mental institution. A lawyer, who believes in him and his mission, defends his right to assert his true identity, despite those who disagree with his claim.   

Many actors take hold of their roles here, including the three main leads. Chicorel as Doris Walker was wonderful, as was her little daughter, Grace Fischer. Her persistent wooer, Kuehn as Fred, was earnest and irresistible to us immediately, and to Doris, eventually.  

Rohn underplayed his role as the controversial Kris Kringle, but his confident “presence” was convincing. Kristin Johnson as Shelhammer and her boss Macy, played by Tarolyn Fulkerson, both exuded a business-like aura.   

Their in-house psychologist Sawyer was memorably rendered by Andrew Kelly. He provided the most comic relief. John Galobich as Doctor Pierce was a little shaky on his lines.  

It was a clever idea to use young carolers during the scene changes, but they needed more musical direction and sometimes sang more verses than they needed to. This story requires many changes of venues, which can be a problem in a stage play. The less time lost, the easier it is to maintain the flow of the story. The set by Rebecca Beaudoin was aesthetically pleasing and quite versatile, but impeded the action somewhat.  

Nolan Zadra, Linda M. Schuster and Bonnie Rahn all were effective in their cameo roles as Judge Harper, Hake and Holloran, respectively, as was the woman who worked at the zoo, who I suspect was Vicky Heckman.  

Well-directed by Dustin J. Martin, seeing “Miracle on 34th Street” was a pleasure to encounter again. Renew your childlike wonder and faith by attending this show.  

“Miracle on 34th Street” runs selected dates through Dec. 31 at the Sunset Playhouse, 800 Elm Grove Road, Elm Grove. For show times and tickets, call 262-782-4430 or visit