‘Miracle on 34th Street’: TCT taps into the magic of Christmas

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

Santa Claus is real.
For those who doubt, Tupelo Community Theatre’s “Miracle on 34th Street” may restore your faith.
TCT’s production is based heavily on the 1947 beloved holiday classic film, but also borrows a bit from the 1994 remake.
“It’s an updated version,” said director Bobby Geno. “It’s the classic that’s been around for years, but we updated parts of it. Like we updated some of the toys, like Super-Soakers, instead of whatever they had in 1947.”
The story is the same: A white-bearded man calls himself Kris Kringle (Richmond Smith) and swears he’s the real, live Santa Claus. He’s institutionalized for insanity and a young lawyer, Fred (Jamie Fair), defends him in court.
Caught up in the drama is Fred’s romantic interest, Doris (Bethany Ramsey). She’s passed on her cynical outlook on life to her daughter, Susan (Abby Spires), who doesn’t believe in Santa.
Doris “is kind of Scrooge-y toward anything magical, so Susan is that way, too,” Ramsey said, and that’s not a role that’s easy to play for the actress.
“I love Christmas,” she said, laughing. “So it’s been a bit of a challenge.”
Spires, who plays Susan, said she likes seeing the change her character experiences in “Miracle on 34th Street.”
“My character gets easier because she gets to believe in Santa,” she said. “She’s so serious before that.”
Spires and Ramsey both love the film versions of the story, but Smith and Fair haven’t seen either of the movies. Geno wants it that way and actually told his cast not to watch the films until the production was over, so they could make their characters unique.
That’s been good direction for Fair.
“I see a lot of myself in Fred,” he said. “He believes in the magic of Christmas. I want to watch the movie after we’re done, because I have my own version of Fred.”
Smith, in his first major role at TCT, is crafting his own take on St. Nick: He’s basing the character on his mother.
“She’s always a giving person, and always trying to find the good in people,” Smith said. “(Kringle) is trying to find the good in everybody. Whenever you allow good things to work, they work out.”
Smith loves his role as Kris Kringle, Santa Claus, Father Christmas, whatever you want to call him.
“I like the character,” Smith said. “He’s a pretty cool cat.”
sheena.barnett@journalinc.com

Dim the lights
What: Tupelo Community Theatre presents “Miracle on 34th Street”
When:7:30 p.m. Dec. 6-7, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8
Where: The Lyric
Cost: $18/adults, $6/students and younger
Info: (662) 844-1935

• Free concessions will be available for those who bring canned goods for Boys and Girl Scouts’ Food for Families drive to the production.

• “Miracle on 34th Street” cast: Richmond Smith (Kris Kringle); Kevin Barrington (Dr. Pierce); Amanda Staggs (Bag Lady); Jessica Briggs (Rich Person); Beverly Murphree (Shellhammer); Bethany Ramsey (Doris Walker); Abby Spires (Susan Walker); Jamie Fair (Fred Gayley); Marcus Jones (Drunken Santa); Suzanna Jones (Child One); Jacob Jones (Child Two); Isaac Staggs (Elf J); Noah Cox (Elf Q); Elf Z (William Petty); Elf W (Brad Durbin); Elf R (Colm McCool); Jennifer Hopkins (Sylvia); Eron Hendrix (Sharon); Susie Clark (Sharon’s Mom); Richie Smith (Johnny); Tonya Smith (Johnny’s Mom); Lindsay Hopkins (Dutch Girl); Lisa Poole (Foster Mother); Mary Morgan Lyle (Megan); Lee McKenzie (Megan’s Mom; Pedestrian 3); John Young (Macy); Shannon Shepherd (Leslie Sawyer); Brent Roberson (Bloomingdale); Tyler Swinney (Finley); David Neilsen (Judge Harper); Chanda Cossitt (Mara); Caye Durbin (Charlene Halloran); Carolyn Neilsen (Pedestrian 1); Barbara Toft (Pedestrian 2); William Deas (James Mara); Jeremy Staggs (Al); John McCuiston (Lou)