April 20, 2014

Community theater to showcase Christmas classic

Corbin H. Crable
chcrable@gardnernews.com

Bob Humphrey has worn many hats throughout his life – pastor, law enforcement official, college professor – but he’ll be playing the role of a lifetime when he becomes Santa Claus for the Gardner Community Theatre’s production of “Miracle on 34th Street.”

Kyra Fuchs, portraying Susan in ‘Miracle on 34th Street,’ tugs on Bob Humphrey’s beard as he portrays Santa Claus for the upcoming production. Submitted photos courtesy of Sarah Ackerman-Hale

GCT actors will perform the play, based on the 1947 film classic starring Edmund Gwenn and Natalie Wood, at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Additional performances will take place at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12. All performances will take place at Wheatridge Middle School; tickets are available at Price Chopper for $5 each.

Sarah Ackerman-Hale, director of “Miracle on 34th Street,” said that although she has plenty of experience working and acting with children – her most recent role was the cold-hearted Miss Hannigan in last summer’s production of “Annie” – this is the first time she has directed adults.

“Working with kids will prepare you for just about anything. But I love it,” Ackerman-Hale said with a laugh. “The adult performers in our cast are incredible. I feel like it’s an honor to work with them. My job as a director has been really easy with this cast because they’re friendly, easy to work with, and … they just amaze me.”

Ackerman-Hale counts Humphrey among those with whom she has enjoyed working, and it’s easy to see why – Humphrey himself looks the part of Kris Kringle, and besides, he’s had plenty of experience in the role.

“I’ve been the university Santa Claus for 18 years,” said Humphrey, a professor of business at Mid-America Nazarene University. “But having the look, the persona — kids even see me in street clothes and go, “There (Santa) is.”

Humphrey said that although he has little acting experience, he’s enjoyed getting to know the production’s cast and crew, who have made his involvement a good mixture of work and play.

Steve Nichols, Gardner, as Fred Gailey, Ashley Stanley, Olathe, as Doris Walker, Kyra Fuchs, Spring Hill, as Susan Walker and Bob Humphrey (Olathe) as Kris Kringle pose for a photo.

“Being involved with these folks has made me realize how much fun (acting) is, but it’s a lot of hard work,” he said.

But everyone involved – from the crew members to the 44 actors and actresses – know the hard work is worth it to bring a holiday classic to the stage in Gardner, Ackerman-Hale said.

“We have tried very hard to be true to the feeling and the nostalgia of the original film. That is the version I grew up with and I just adore,” she said.

“There’s just something so special about it, I didn’t want to mess with it a lot. However, our show does take place in 2010. We thought it would make it easier for our audience to relate to the characters, and we feel the issues of consumerism clouding the true spirit of Christmas is as relevant today as it was in 1947, if not more so.”

Audiences also can consider the GCT production a nice introduction to the holiday season, Humphrey said.

“This is a well-casted production that involves kids, adults, folks that just want to help people enjoy the Christmas holiday,” he said. “It’s just fun to tell the story – and it helps kids be community minded and take a break from the stresses of life. They can check out of all their troubles and just enjoy themselves.”

In addition, Humphrey said, it wouldn’t hurt kids who want to remain on Santa’s ‘nice’ list to come out and enjoy the show.

“If they want to get off the ‘naughty’ list, they’ll come to this production,” he said, laughing.

For more information on this and other Gardner Community Theatre shows, visit GCT online at www.gardnercommunitytheatre.org.

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