Provo Theatre Company bills itself as the valley’s only semi-professional theater. This, coupled with ticket prices that are slightly higher than those of other area theaters, suggests PTC is holding itself to a higher standard.
Which is why “Here’s Love,” the light Christmas musical currently playing at PTC, is something of a disappointment, albeit a merry one. The cheesy prerecorded orchestrations, the frequent overacting, the generally uneven quality — this would be fine for community theater. But PTC prides itself on being better than that, and “Here’s Love” simply isn’t.
It is cheery, however, and its fluffy, pointless storyline basically means it can glide from one charming song to the next — until the second act, when the songs become fewer and the dialogue becomes more plentiful. That’s when you remember you’re really just watching “Miracle on 34th Street,” and you know how it’s going to end, and can’t they just bring in the huge sacks of letters already?
The show, by Meredith Willson, debuted on Broadway in 1963, after his two major hits, “The Music Man” and “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” had closed. It is certainly the least of the Willson trio. The mischievous humor and endlessly hummable tunes that characterized the first two shows are found only in snippets in “Here’s Love,” where vanilla-flavored comedy and forgettable music are more the rule.
The story is the same as in “Miracle on 34th Street,” the film on which the musical is based: A little girl doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, then comes to understand that the department store Kringle she’s befriended is the real deal. In the meantime, and kind of as a result of the Santa business, and kind of because this sort of thing is obligatory in a musical, the girl’s divorced mother falls in love with the soldier-turned-lawyer next door.
Nine-year-old Ali Hill plays Susan, the doubting little girl in question, and she’s a charmer. Her mom, Doris, is played by Allison G. Belnap, who has a nice singing voice and a pleasant matriarchal air about her. Davison Cheney is Fred, the suitor; he gives many of the stiff lines a fresh delivery and can be credited for lifting several scenes out of the doldrums. His song with Susan, “My Wish,” is utterly sweet.
According to the program, Kris Kringle is playing himself; however, since Kris Kringle doesn’t exist, I’m inclined to believe it’s actually local bearded actor Craig Dunford. Whoever it is, his performance is suitably jolly, and his rendition of the title song is one of the high points of the show.
Scott Wilkinson, a good director and a better actor (he shines in his one scene in this show), has assembled a production that is merely average. “Here’s Love” is not very well-written; it tells a familiar story without much flair or wit, and the conflicts are underdeveloped. (Kringle has a crisis of faith that lasts, as far as I can tell, no more than 90 seconds.) A few cast members persist in over-the-top behavior that lowers the level of professionalism. And the fabulousness of Macy’s department store can only be hinted at on this small stage; in a larger venue, perhaps the show packs more of a yuletide wallop. As it is, the show is comparable to the Christmas offerings you’d find anywhere else: good enough for some holiday cheer, maybe, but nothing special.
This show contains a song called "Pinecones and Hollyberries." The whole time, I was thinking "Pinecones and Halle Berry," which is something different altogether.