Clarksburg actor plays Kris Kringle ‘on air’ in ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ -- Gazette.Net



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Ever wonder how people made those funny sound effects in the radio shows of the 1940s?

Come to Montgomery Playhouse’s production of the Lux Radio Theater’s 1948 version of the movie “Miracle on 34th Street” and see for yourself.

The show in the 99-seat theater at the Arts Barn in Gaithersburg runs from Nov. 30 to Dec. 16.

Actors will be performing the script of Lux’s hour-long radio adaptation of the 1947 film starring Natalie Wood, Maureen O’Hara, John Payne and Edmund Gwenn.

“In the late 1940s, they’d cut down the movie script and normally get the original stars [to do the radio version before a live studio audience],” says Bill Spitz of Clarksburg, who plays Kris Kringle, the Santa made famous by Gwenn.

The classic Christmas story is about a Macy’s department store Santa who convinces skeptics that he’s the real deal, but not without trial and tribulation.

Hired by Macy’s event director Doris (Kathryn Murphy Ryan), Kringle creates a stir by telling parents who can’t find what they want for their children at Macy’s to go to rival department store Gimbels.

“The customers love it, because the important thing is the kids,” Spitz says.

But when Kringle keeps insisting he’s Santa Claus, he ends up in court where he must prove his identity.

Along the way, a romance develops between Doris, one of the skeptics, and Fred (John Van Eck), her neighbor, a lawyer who helps Kringle make his case before a judge.

In the end, a Christmas wish comes true for Doris’ young daughter Susan (Maya Gensler).

“This is a first [for Montgomery Playhouse],” says director Bruce Hirsch of Gaithersburg about recreating a Lux Theater radio show.

At the Arts Barn, actors playing their characters and wearing 1940s clothes, will stand before three microphones on stage to deliver their lines.

Actors Mara Bayewitz and Kristie Milewski also will be sitting at a table on stage recreating the sounds of telephones, typewriters, rustling papers and slamming doors, while also playing a variety of characters.

“If you close your eyes, you don’t necessarily know the same person is doing multiple roles,” Spitz says.

In addition to the sound effects, the play also includes three Lux soap commercials.

“One of them tells you how to take the Lux flakes, mix them with water and make Christmas decorations for the tree,” he says.

“The audience really gets into it,” says Spitz, who performed a radio version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” a few years ago.

“It’s not a case of people just standing up there and reading their scripts,” he says.

“You feel free to read the lines but you can still interact with the audience and keep within the realm of a radio show,” he says.

vterhune@gazette.net