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It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Book by  Meredith Willson
Music by  Meredith Willson
Lyrics by  Meredith Willson
Based on Miracle on 34th Street; story by Valentine Davies, screenplay by George Seaton

Two Acts Book Musical
Shubert Theatre, Broadway - 3 October,1963 (334 perfs) as Here's Love


Kris Kringle takes on the cynics among us in this musical adaptation of the popular holiday favourite. In his inimitable style, Meredith Willson, the author of “The Music Man” and “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” tells us the classic story of the year. A white-bearded gentleman claiming to be the real Santa Claus brings about a genuine “Miracle on 34th Street,” spreading a wave of love throughout New York City, fostering camaraderie between Macy’s and Gimbel’s Department Stores, and convincing a divorced, cynical single mother, her somber daughter and the entire state of New York that Santa Claus is no myth.


After the overture, the lights come up in the West 70's in New York City. We see the steps of a brownstone front - next door is a tall modern apartment building. The time is the present. It is morning -- Thanksgiving Day.

Seated on the steps is solemn-eyed Susan Walker, age six, reading The New York Times. She takes no notice of the various passerby's'. There appear to be preparations underway for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

A silver-bearded gentleman enters - indeed the classic conception of Santa Claus - and tells one of the parade workers that the reindeer (Prancer and Blitzen) should change places in the Santa float.

Fred Gaily, a marine captain, enters and talks with young Susan who is in no mood for conversation. It is here that we learn that this girl has no father and certainly no interest in seeing Santa Claus.

In the opening number "Big Ca-lown Balloons," the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons are walked across the stage. Fred once again approaches Susan and offers her a ride on his shoulders so that she can see the parade and also see Santa Claus. Susan tells him that she doesn't believe in Santa Claus since her mother works at Macy's and hires Santa. Fred is in no mood to hear a "little Scrooge" poo-poo Christmas and read the paper, so he hoists her up on his shoulders and whisks her off to see the parade.

The next scene takes place "back stage" at the parade on a side street near Macy's. The woman in charge, Doris Walker, (Susan's mother) is concerned that the man playing Santa Claus hasn't shown up yet. The bearded gentleman we met in the first scene approaches her, and she at first mistakes him for the Macy's Santa; however, she realizes that this isn't the case after she sees her Santa quite drunk and unable to ride in the parade float. Out of desperation, she quickly convinces the bearded gentleman to substitute for the drunk Santa and he agrees to help out. The bearded gentleman dons the costume, mounts the sleigh, and saves the day - just in the nick of time.

The scene shifts to the parade and it goes passing by in a choreographed fashion. At first it appears to be a rainy day, but suddenly the sun comes out as the Santa Claus float rounds the corner. Fred and little Susan watch all this.

Doris stands on top of Macy's roof with Marvin Shellhammer, a Macy's junior executive. They both comment how good the substitute Santa seems to be. This Santa has everyone virtually mesmerized by his sheer presence.

Later on the day we are at Doris' apartment where Susan is at the typewriter. Doris enters and gives her daughter a pair of new slippers. Susan excitedly tries them on and thanks her mother. The two sing "Arm In Arm" where it is evident that they have a very special rather mature mother/daughter relationship. Susan tells her mother about her meeting with Fred and also asks her if she ever believed in Santa Claus. Doris avoids the question and puts Susan to sleep and sings "You Don't Know" where she basically talks about playing it safe. It's evident that Doris is someone who doesn't get emotionally involved so as not to get stung in the end.

The next morning in the Manager's Briefing Room at Macy's, Mr. Shellhammer is training the new young female clerks. It seems that Mr. Shellhammer has ordered too many plastic alligators and is teaching the girls how to sell them by singing a little jingle he wrote. ("Plastic Alligator") You can say anything if you just sing it - even sell plastic alligators. Mr. Macy enters and sees this going on and is not impressed by Mr. Shellhammer or his jingle.

The scene immediately following takes place in Macy's glittering Toy Department. The Bearded Gentleman Doris hired in the first scene is "playing" Santa Claus. He is sending parents to other stores to purchase toys that Macy's doesn't have in stock. This seems strange - but he tells the parents that Macy's really has "the true spirit of Christmas." This Bearded Gentleman also speaks and sings in Dutch ("Bugles") with a little orphan girl who doesn't speak any English. Fred brings young Susan to see Santa; unfortunately, the young girl doesn't believe in Santa.

But this Santa seems different from all others her mother has hired. He speaks a variety of languages, has a real beard, and even tells people to go to other stores and buy what they can't get at Macy's. Why does he do this? In the song, "Here's Love," the Bearded Gentleman explains that love is what it is all about - especially at this time of year. He starts off this song, and eventually it turns into a big production number with the entire company going from Macy's to Herald Square and eventually to the front of Gimbels where some of the customers go to get what Santa tells them Macy's doesn't have.

Lights come up on a playground in the Park where Fred and Susan enter and play on the seesaw. Susan is now enchanted with Fred and is calling him "Uncle Fred." She even asks him to be her father; however, he tells her that he is a confirmed bachelor and plans on staying that way. They talk a bit more and Fred finds out that Susan's birthday is on Christmas so she never has a party. He says how terrible that must be, so just for today he decides to make it her honorary birthday and be her honorary father just till they go home. They sing "My Wish."

Back at Doris' office, Ms. Shellhammer reports that Macy's Santa is steering everyone off to Gimbel's to find what they don't have at Macy's. It also seems that this gentleman goes by the name of Kris Kringle (with next of kin being Dancer, Prancer...) Mr. Macy burst in furious over all this. After he gives Doris a chance to talk, she suggests a sales idea - What if they follow Santa's lead and have all of their employees send customers to other stores where the prices are cheaper? Macy's will be "the store with the heart." They'll put public service ahead of profits, and subsequently make more profit than ever. Mr. Macy loves the idea.

Doris decides to give Mr. Kringle a lifetime contract; however, Mr. Shellhammer has fired him. In fact, his pink slip is in the mailroom. With that, Mr. Kringle appears with his pink slip and Doris rips it up. She tells Mr. Kringle how she is going to follow his lead - and adopt his policy to send people to other stores. He is happy because he was just about to give up. He misses the old days when there were real Christmas trees and "Pine Cones and Holly Berries." Doris, Mr. Shellhammer and Mr. Kringle all sing. (It's here that the holiday classic "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas" is sung.) Mr. Macy comes back in excitedly saying that the new campaign is working. Doris tells her secretary to call home and tell Susan that she's coming home for dinner. Shellhammer informs her that he saw Susan at the store earlier with a man whom he didn't know. Doris is very determined to check this out.

The scene shifts to Fred's apartment, late afternoon the same day, where Doris enters and confronts him about why he took Susan to see Santa Claus. She has told Susan that Santa is a myth and doesn't want her daughter to think any differently. Also, it is evident that Doris has had a bad time with men on her own. Susan's father walked out on them the day Susan was born - enough said. Doris doesn't want Susan having a father image in her life and wants Fred to stay away. If he goes near her again, she'll call the police.

Fred tells Susan that he recently came out of the Marines and is has finally passed the bar (after three tries) and is ready to start practicing law. He has no plans to try and sweep Doris and Susan off their feet - he is a single man. He sings "Look Little Girl" where he basically reveals more about himself, but eventually kisses Doris. He wonders why he did it. She exits wondering much the same. Romance is in the air - confused as it may be.

The following Monday morning at Macy's store psychologist's office, Mr. Kringle is put through a myriad of tests where Mr. Sawyer, the store psychologist, appears more nervous than Mr. Kringle. Mr. Sawyer tells his secretary that Mr. Kringle should be dismissed from work as soon as possible - even though his secretary, Miss Crookshank, reminds him that Mr. Kringle gave all the right answers. Mr. Sawyer fires her, and Mr. Kringle approaches him and demands that he retract her firing. Sawyer says "no" and actually fakes being attacked by Mr. Kringle.

That night at the toy department, Susan visits Mr. Kringle and talks to him. There is some sort of meeting for Mr. Kringle tonight though he doesn't know what it is about. While waiting, Mr. Kringle talks to Susan about her imagination and helps her create a world of her own while singing "Expect Things to Happen." Alone Susan imagines a world all her own in two musical numbers ("Susan's Birthday Party Ballet" and "The Toy Ballet.")

Mr. Kringle returns and breaks Susan's spell - she is no longer lost in her imagination. Mr. Macy enters with the Governor and Mayor and many press people who are about to witness Mr. Kringle being offered a lifetime contract at Macy's. Doris is honored, too. Mr. Gimbel is there and announces his new slogan is "If Gimbel's hasn't got it, try Macy's." It seems that everyone is getting along. Doris discovers that Susan is also there, and is most upset to find that Fred brought her to the store after being told to stay---away.

Police then enter to take Mr. Kringle to Bellevue based on Mr. Sawyer's (the psychologist's) recommendation. It appears that Mr. Kringle was a "maniac" when Sawyer refused to believe he was Santa Claus." Doris says she knows nothing about this, but asks Mr. Kringle to simply say he isn't Santa - and he needn't pretend just because young Susan is present. He says that he is not pretending - and the police escorts him off. Susan confronts her mother and says that Mr. Kringle is Santa. Doris once again tries to reason with the child saying that it is nonsense - but Susan runs off in tears.

The act opens the following Thursday morning in the Chambers of Judge Martin Group. Fred is there and wishes to speak to the Judge about Mr. Kringle, but his secretary says no. As she exits Fred tries on the judge's robe (just for the heck of it), but gets himself stuck in it as the Judge and Doris come in arguing. He quickly ducks behind the door. Doris says that she believes that Mr. Kringle deserves a fair trial, and she also believes that he really is Santa Claus. The judge informs her that Mr. Kringle has failed the mental test at Bellevue. If he has, she says that it's because he did it on purpose. She continues to fight for Mr. Kringle and even says that she has a lawyer. Fred will represent him! She leaves. Fred gets the robe off just before the judge needs it and goes into court. Having heard the entire conversation between Doris and the judge, he is now quite prepared to have Doris call upon him - tonight.

In the meantime at Bellevue, it appears that Mr. Kringle has all but given up. He even passes up a temporary release, just because he doesn't seem to care. Susan shows up and tells Mr. Kringle that he can't stop believing in himself. She shows him a picture of Fred's farmhouse with a swing and cow that Fred gave her. She tells Mr. Kringle that if he really is Santa then he'll get this for her - for this is what she wants for Christmas. He says that he'll try, but that it's virtually impossible. She tells him that if he really is Santa nothing is impossible. The two sing a reprise of "Pinecones."

Later that night in Fred's apartment, Fred is playing poker with four of his marine buddies. He tells the guys that they must go because a "dame" is arriving. They tease him - saying that he doesn't have any dame coming over. In the song "She Hadda Go Back," Fred bets them that he knows just when she'll be over. At the end of the number, the door buzzes and Fred takes a bow - expecting to win the bet with Doris walking through the door. Instead, it is a Girl Scout selling cookies. Fred has lost the bet and pays the men as they each leave. Doris then buzzes and enters. She apologizes to Fred for what she said the last time she was over, and asks him to defend Mr. Kringle. He beats her to the punch and says that he was behind the door at the judge's and heard her entire conversation. She's a bit upset that he made her grovel like this. The two fight, and she finally leaves.

It's now 8:30 the following morning in a corridor in a New York State Supreme Court. The District Attorney thinks that this will take about five to ten minutes. Mr. Macy is there with Mr. Shellhammer who is spouting another dumb idea for an ad campaign. Mr. Kringle and Fred are now planning their strategy - especially since this is Fred's first case anywhere.

In the courtroom immediately following, the Judge enters and Mr. Kringle takes the stand. Mr. Kringle says that he is Santa Claus and Fred sets out to prove that to be the case. Fred calls Mr. Macy to the stand who says that he believes that Mr. Kringle is truthful and is of sound mind. The DA questions Mr. Macy and asks him if he believes Mr. Kringle to be Santa Claus. Mr. Macy gulps and gets a signal from Doris which reminds him that "you can claim anything if you sing it" and sings "That Man Over There Is Santa Claus." Pretty soon, the entire courtroom is involved. The DA is upset and tries to discredit Fred. The judge decides to take a break. During this time Macy, Doris, Mr. Shellhammer, and one of the political bosses sing "My State, My Kansas," when they find out that's where the judge grew up. They use a bit of Americana to win him over to their side.

The next scene takes place in the Courthouse corridor at PM. It is Tuesday December 24th. There is a special mail delivery from Susan to Mr. Kringle at the courthouse. The mailman comments that he's got tons of mail for Mr. Kringle that he'd love to get rid of. Fred gets an idea and goes off to make a phone call. Mr. Kringle talks with Doris and tells her that she can pick up Susan's gift (the farmhouse, etc.) at Macy's in the living room display. Mr. Kringle tries to do a bit of matchmaking between Doris and Fred, but Doris sings that the two of them have "Nothing In Common." By the end of her song, she realizes that she loves Fred and embraces Mr. Kringle.

We go to the courtroom - immediately following. The judge has decided that rather than dismiss the case, he'll hear evidence from both sides. Fred calls the district attorney's son to the stand. The boy recognizes Mr. Kringle to be Santa, and when asked who told him so, responds that his father did. There is roar of laughter in the courtroom. The D.A. demands that Fred only give "authoritative proof" that Mr. Kringle is "the one and only Santa Claus." Fred doesn't quite know what to do, but in a desperate act offers Susan's letter addressed to Santa Claus at the NYC Courthouse as evidence. The D.A. says that one letter is hardly enough proof. With that Fred proclaims that there are more letters outside addressed simply to "Santa Claus" - no address. Guards march in with huge bags of letters that they dump on the judge's desk. Based on all this evidence, the judge decides to dismiss the case.

Everyone happily leaves the courtroom. Doris throws caution aside and sings by herself once again deciding that she needs to take a chance on love just like Mr. Kringle said.

The final scene takes place at Macy's model living room display. Doris enters and tells a guard that she is looking for a farmhouse with a swing and a cow. The guard stares at her a bit strangely as she looks all over the ground for this "present." Eventually, she sees Fred. They embrace and kiss. (Susan will get her farmhouse and a father after all.) The set dissolves to have the happy couple in Macy's window having people watch them kiss as they walk by. One pedestrian happens to be Mr. Kringle who gives the audience a wink as he goes on his merry way.


All vocal types: SATB