Pasadena Playhouse, the State Theatre of California, presents the original 1947 radio play of Miracle on 34th Street, on its 70th anniversary for a limited engagement of 14 performances from December 14 to 23, directed by Cameron Watson. The cast includes Peri Gilpin, Beth Grant, and award-winning film, TV and stage actor Alfred Molina as Kris Kringle.
This is a special holiday attraction for the 2017/18 Centennial Season of the Pasadena Playhouse, Producing Artistic Director Danny Feldman’s inaugural season. Tickets are now on sale at pasadenaplayhouse.org and by phone at 626-356-7529.
The story of Miracle on 34th Street is well known: when a department store Santa claims he’s the real thing, it takes him all the way to the Supreme Court. Pasadena Playhouse Producing Artistic Director Danny Feldman said, “What is much less known, is that this story was very popular as a radio play, when all of America used their ears and their imaginations to completely realize a story. And now in 2017, seventy years later, the eyes of our audience get to watch what went into producing the performance live, which its original listeners never got to see.”
As was often the case with mid-century entertainments, once a property became famous and popular in one medium, it was played out across many – as was the case of the very popular Miracle on 34th Street. Darryl F. Zanuck, the head of 20th Century Fox, originally insisted that the film be released in May 1947, thinking that movie going was at its height in warmer weather – and the promotion kept secret its Christmas theme.
Starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn as Santa Claus (Best Supporting Actor Academy Award), “Miracle on 34th Street” became one of the most popular films of all time. The film was written and directed by George Seaton and based on a story by Valentine Davies. Both won Academy Awards for Best Writing — Original Story for Davies and Screenplay for Seaton. “Miracle on 34th Street” was also nominated for Best Picture; “Gentlemen’s Agreement” was the winner that year.
Just seven months later, Lux Radio Theater broadcast this adaptation of “Miracle on 34thStreet” on December 22, 1947, which starred the original cast including Natalie Wood. Lux broadcast it again in 1948 (without Ms. Wood) and it was then adapted as a half-hour radio play on two broadcasts of “Screen Director’s Playhouse,” with Edmund Gwenn in his screen role.
Miracle on 34th Street became a television production in 1955 with Thomas Mitchell as Kris, Macdonald Carey as Fred, Teresa Wright as Doris, and Sandy Descher as Susan as an episode of The 20th Century Fox Hour. Ed Wynn played Kris in a 1959 television adaptation of the movie with Orson Bean broadcast live and in color on NBC the day after Thanksgiving.
A 1973 television version featured Jane Alexander, David Hartman, Roddy McDowall, and Sebastian Cabot (as Kris Kringle), Jim Backus, David Doyle and Tom Bosley, and a 1994 feature film, adapted by John Hughes, starred Richard Attenborough, Elizabeth Perkins, Dylan McDermott, and J. T. Walsh.
Here’s Love, the 1963 Broadway musical version of “Miracle on 34th Street,” was written by Meredith Willson (The Music Man, The Unsinkable Molly Brown).
“Miracle on 34th Street” was selected to join The National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2005, and the Academy Film Archive preserved the film in 2009.