MJJ Cashman always watched the classic Christmas film “Miracle on 34th Street” with his family after Thanksgiving dinner.
“It’s a movie that we always started our holidays with because there was a sincerity to it,” Cashman said.
Now, Cashman will step into the role of Santa Claus himself with the musical version of “Miracle on 34th Street,” which opens Friday at Arizona Broadway Theatre.
“This is a role that everyone knows, so it’s important that I no doubt make sure I give it everything I’ve got, especially since I’m sure kids will be in the audience,” he said.
The musical is based on the classic film, which has four remakes. Most people are familiar with the 1947 movie starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne and a young Natalie Wood.
Others also might remember the 1994 movie with Elizabeth Perkins, Dylan McDermott and Richard Attenborough.
In 1963, the musical adaptation debuted on Broadway as “Here’s Love,” but later changed to “Miracle on 34th Street.”
Meredith Wilson, the creator of “The Music Man,” wrote the book, lyrics and music for the show. Songs include “Pinecones and Holly Berries,” “Arm in Arm,” “My Wish” and “Expect Things to Happen.”
Many theater-goers aren’t familiar with this musical version, but Cashman believes audiences will enjoy this particular version.
“This show was actually new to me because I didn’t know it existed until recently,” he said. “But there are some really catchy tunes that help propel the story along.”
James Rio, director of “Miracle on 34th Street” and artistic administrator for ABT, said they chose the musical because it’s a timeless classic. In addition, many families kick-start their holiday season with the film.
Rio said “Miracle on 34th Street” would always remind of him of Thanksgiving in New York.
“For me as a child, the Christmas season officially started with the finale of the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — with Santa ringing in the holidays atop his sleigh,” Rio said. “The opening scene of our musical, which takes place on the route of the parade, hints at the grandeur and scale of that yearly celebration we all love.”
The story follows a gentleman named Kris Kringle, who claims to be the real Santa Claus.
He is hired as the Macy’s Department Store Santa and tries to convince skeptics, particularly a divorced mother and her daughter, that he’s the real deal.
Even though it’s a musical adaptation, Cashman said the message remains.
“This all boils down to hope and believing that things can be better than they are if you make them,” he said.