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'Miracle on 34th Street' coming to Shaler Area stage

| Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, 11:39 a.m.
Louis Raggiunti | Shaler Journal
Dan Bittner, Isabella James, Jess Dorow and Summerly Kelly rehearse a scene for the Shaler Area Fall play 'Miracle of 34th Street.'
Louis Raggiunti | Shaler Journal
Jess Dorow and Brad Gillespie gear up for Shaler Area's production of 'Miracle on 34th Street.'
Louis Raggiunti| Shaler Journal
Summerly Kelly and Brad Gillespie run some lines together during rehearsal.

Shaler Area High School students will bring Santa Claus to life and kick off the holiday season when the curtain rises on “Miracle on 34th Street” this month.

The Christmas classic tells the story of Macy's store event director Doris Walker, played by senior Jess Dorow, who learns the true meaning of happiness and faith from Kris Kringle during his time as the store's Santa Claus, and her neighbor, Fred.

“It's a really cute story … and it's definitely a great holiday play,” Dorow said.

More than 45 students from the primary schools through high school are cast in this year's production, which features sixth-grader Isabella James as Doris' daughter, Susan, and a baton and flag twirling performance by students in the Sensations Marching Unit during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade scene.

Student actor Dillon Brown, a sophomore, said working with the younger students has been rewarding and complement's the Christmas themes in Shaler Area's production of the play.

“It's really fun to perform with them on stage,” Brown said.

“It definitely adds to the spirit and true meaning of Christmas. It makes it seems more real. There is no way we could do this without children. It adds a lot more character.”

Students were cast before the end of last school year and have used the extra preparation time to further develop their characters.

“We're keeping true to the script as best we can, but we're making it our own — we're giving it that Shaler flair,” said senior Sarah Little, student director. “Our actors are bringing a different kind of personality to make it exciting and fun and fleshing out the characters ... and making the characters better than what they were maybe scripted as.”

Senior Bradley Gillespie, who plays Kris Kringle, said the students' take on the play can best be seen in the elves who surround his character in the store Santa Claus display.

“I do like my character, but one of my favorite parts is the elves,” Gillespie said. “They're really funny and incorporated jokes, juggling, tumbling, even though they're small(er) characters, they really show their part in this.”

To add to the holiday spirit, Shaler Area students will be collecting money for Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions, in the lobby outside of the auditorium during each show.

“The theme is about believing and that's Make-A-Wish too,” said Kristen Susany, who is co-directing the play with Anne Loudon. “It's about the intangibles, too, so we decided to carry it out into the lobby.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or

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