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ALT explores the magic of Christmas

 Mike Van Ryzin plays Kris Kringle and Isabel Arenas is Susan Walker in "Miracle on 34th Street." (Courtesy of Jason Ponic Photography )

Mike Van Ryzin plays Kris Kringle and Isabel Arenas is Susan Walker in “Miracle on 34th Street.” (Courtesy of Jason Ponic Photography )

“Miracle on 34th Street” is a story of faith and wonder wrapped in the joys of Christmas.

Kris Kringle is indignant to learn that the man playing Santa in Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade is drunk.

When he complains to event director Doris, she persuades Kris to replace him. He performs so well Macy’s hires him to play the role in its 34th Street flagship store.

The Albuquerque Little Theatre will present this Christmas classic beginning on Friday, Dec. 6. The show runs on weekends through Christmas Eve.

“It’s the old classic story from the TV movie,” director Nancy Sellin said.

The 1947 film was originally named “The Big Heart” when it opened in Britain. The story takes place between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, focusing on the impact of a department store Santa who claims to be the real deal.

“It’s a story about miracles and things we can’t justify in our mind,” Sellin said. “It’s having faith in things that are not necessarily logical.”

Kris lives in a retirement home. He unleashes waves of good will with Macy’s customers, even sending them to competing stores to get what they want. Soon the store management sees him as both deluded and dangerous. The company’s vocational counselor want him committed to Bellevue. Kris ends up in a court competency hearing with one little girl’s belief in Santa Claus at stake.

“People are trying to say he’s crazy,” Sellin said.

Doris has shielded her daughter Susan from fairy tales. But the little girl is shaken when she hears Kris speak Dutch to a girl who doesn’t speak English.

Worried, Doris decides to fire him.

“Doris is literal,” Snellin said. “She’s had a divorce and she’s been hurt. Kris Kringle is sort of like this elf.”

The show boasts a cast of 31, including seven youngsters ranging from age 7 to 16. Maria Held plays Doris, Isabel Arenas is Susan and Mike Van Ryzin is Kris.

“Miracle on 34th Street” starred Maureen O’Hara, Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn. It won three Academy Awards and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2005.

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