Lilly Ellis (left) and Michael Sutherland rehearse a scene from CAT’s ‘Miracle on 34th Street.’ (Contributed photo)

Lilly Ellis (left) and Michael Sutherland rehearse a scene from CAT’s ‘Miracle on 34th Street.’ (Contributed photo)

UPDATED/CAT presents a timely tale of faith and hope: ‘Miracle on 34th Street’

There’s a two-for-one deal on tickets for opening night Friday, with a pub menu

Central Alberta Theatre’s season-opening Christmas play, Miracle on 34th Street, comes with a timely message of hope.

Based on the classic holiday movie about a little girl who learns to believe in Santa Claus, this play opens at Festival Hall on Friday, Nov. 26.

It contains a line that strongly resonates with director Craig Scott: ‘Faith is believing in something when common sense tells you not to.’

“Right now it seems common sense has been thrown out the window,” said Scott, referring to inconsistent COVID-19 prevention measures, “so all we’ve got is faith…”

As for hope, Scott hopes to send some of it home with audience members, who have been starved of live entertainment and even face-to-face communications over the last 20 months.

This play, based on a screenplay by George Seaton and a book by Valentine Davies, is less performed than It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol. But Scott believes it delivers an equally important message about the power of belief and personal connections.

Miracle on 34th Street also conjures up the New York world of nostalgic Macy’s holiday displays in the late 1940s, a simpler time before COVID or electronic devices “when people would take the time to greet and talk to each other.”

CAT’s production of Miracle was initially planned for last Christmas at the Memorial Centre, but the production couldn’t go ahead after all live entertainment was shut down.

Scott is reprising the play for this holiday season, feeling its hopeful theme is even more needed in this second year of the pandemic.

He had to recast about half of the 16 roles, although Michael Sutherland is still onboard to play Kris Kringle, who ends up trying to prove that he really is Santa Claus.

The venue was moved to Festival Hall as the play will now be staged with various options — as a dinner theatre, brunch theatre, or as play only.

Scott said little elves will help shuffle set pieces on and off stage in the new venue that doesn’t have a curtain.

The elves weren’t in the popular movie of the same name, starring Maureen O’Hara and the young Natalie Wood. Scott said, “Film fans won’t be disappointed, but they might be surprised by a couple of changes” in the stage play.

His main goal with this production is to bring theatre back to Red Deer — and infuse the audience with some Christmas cheer.

Seating in Festival Hall has been reduced to allow for more distancing and CAT is following the provincial Restrictions Exemption Program, requiring proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID test. Masks must be worn whenever patrons leave their seats.

Miracle on 34th Street will be showing Nov. 26 to Dec. 11. On opening night, Friday, tickets will be two-for-one with a pub menu and an open bar — use the promo code MIRACLE.

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