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Synopsis

The story begins, fittingly enough, with a snappy drum roll and a rousing march; we’re on a street in New York City and something’s afoot. It’s Thanksgiving; it’s Macy’s Parade, with its “Big Clown Balloons!” But at the last minute, Macy’s would-be Santa Claus has drunk too much Christmas spirit. Suddenly one Mr. Kris Kringle appears, and because of his white whiskers and roly-poly girth, he is persuaded to impersonate Santa in the parade. Throughout the hustle and bustle, a sad little girl, Susan Walker, sits reading on the steps of a brownstone. A Marine officer, stalwart and handsome, starts up the stairs and then notices her. He is Fred Gaily, an aspiring lawyer freshly out of the Corps. The little girl tells him that she lives in the apartment next door to him with her mother, Doris, who is Promotional Director at Macy’s. “We’re divorced,” she confides, much to Fred’s sudden interest. That night in their apartment, Susan and Doris exchange accounts of their busy day (“Arm in Arm”), and Susan tells her mother about their new neighbor, the “nice man who wants to live in Connecticut.” Doris is upset by what she considers a stranger’s sneaky way of trying to meet her through her daughter. “Oh no, he called you a witch,” Susan asserts helpfully, “because you say there is no Santa Claus.” Doris tells Susan that she doesn’t want her to believe in fantasies; she must learn to live without hopes, dreams and illusions – “You Don’t Know.” The next day at Macy’s, Marvin Shellhammer, Assistant Promotional Director, is briefing the new Christmas clerks and urges them to push the plastic alligator, a slow-selling item of which in a moment of unguarded enthusiasm he bought several thousand. In the toy department, Santa is seated on a splendiferous throne. When he recommends F.A.O. Schwarz for a toy Macy’s doesn’t have, the parents conclude that Macy’s has learned the true spirit of Christmas. Even the skeptical Susan is impressed by the love and happiness Santa brings to a lonely little Dutch girl, Hendrika, who can’t speak English. Mr. Kringle converses with her fluently in Dutch and together they sing a carol, “The Bugle.” Susan is less impressed, however, when Mr. Kringle says he really is Santa Claus: “My mother is Mrs. Walker. She hired you.” At first Mr. Kringle is speechless, but gradually he convinces Susan that the spirit of Santa is real – “Here’s Love.” In a burst of Christmas cheer, Santa leads the shoppers and store clerks in a joyous parade that eventually takes them to Gimbels. Mr. Shellhammer faints. Later, in Central Park, Fred and Susan, now firm buddies, exchange confidences. Their affection toward each other obviously becomes warmer and more tender – “My Wish.” The next day, not all is sweetness and light at Macy’s. Shellhammer, wailing in despair, explains to Doris about the mass exodus to Gimbels and points an accusing finger at “that Santa Claus.” When they discover his name listed as Kris Kringle on his personnel card and his next of kin as Dancer, Prancer, etc., they are sure he is an oddball. R.H. Macy storms in, equally sure that this is some harebrained promotional stunt of Doris’s. But wait! Maybe, says Doris, it is a fantastic new sales idea: build Macy’s up as the Friendly Store, the store that sends you to the store that has what you want, the store that puts public service above profit; and sign Kris Kringle to a lifetime contract. But Shellhammer shamefully confesses that he’s fired him! As the mayhem mounts, Kringle enters, sure that his dismissal must be a mistake. When he discovers that the spirit of love is to be the official store policy, he is overjoyed. With Christmas joviality, they sing “Pine Cones and Holly Berries”/”It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas.” That evening, Doris comes to Fred’s apartment to settle the score with him, furious that he has stuffed Susan’s head full of nonsense, fairy tales and illusions. She lays down the law; she knows how men work. He will not get to her through Susan. “Look, Little Girl,” he fires back, “for all I know you planted Susan on my doorstep to trap me. “And if she came over here hoping he would make a pass, here’s the first and last kiss she’ll ever get.” But somehow the kiss lasts a little longer than either had intended and she leaves as baffled as she is angry – “Look, Little Girl” (reprise). Next day in the toy department, Mr. Kringle tells Susan of a wonderful land called Imagi Nation and about hope – “Expect Things To Happen.” After he leaves, Susan starts dreaming about the wonderful world he has described – “Love Come Take Me Again” – a waltz. Psawyer, the store psychiatrist, interviews Santa and, convinced that Kringle is a dangerous loony, arrives with police officers to arrest him. When Kris tells the officers that he really is Santa Claus, they haul him away. Susan is in tears; as Doris had feared, she has been disillusioned. In Act II, Fred goes to Judge Group’s office to try to help Kris, and soon the judge, Doris, District Attorney Mara and Tammany O’Halloran arrive. Desperate, Doris “volunteers” Fred to represent Santa. Susan visits Kris in his isolation ward and, as she now believes he is Santa Claus, says that for Christmas she wants a house in Connecticut with a cow and a swing in the back yard. Later on that evening, Fred boasts about his knowledge of women to Marine poker pals – “She Hadda Go Back.” When the doorbell rings at exactly the moment he bet his buddies that Doris would arrive, he swaggers smugly to the door only to be greeted by a Girl Scout selling cookies. Shelling out money to her and to his departing cronies, he awaits Doris somewhat less confidently. Arrive she does, and amidst acrimonious insults, he agrees to represent Kris. At the sanity hearing, R.H. Macy is put on the stand. Prompted by Doris’s reminder about what Kris has done for business, he declares that “That Man Over There” is Santa Claus, then joins Tammany, Doris, and Shellhammer in a plea to the poor distraught judge’s patriotism, his love of home, of wheat and rain and public office; in fact, to everything but sense and reason – “My State.” When a Christmas card from Susan, addressed to “Santa Claus, New York Supreme Court,” is brought by a harried postman who complains about the thousands of undeliverable letters sent to Santa, Fred gets an idea. He calls as his first witness the D.A.’s little son. “Do you believe in Santa Claus?” he asks. “Yes.” “Why?” “Because my daddy told me.” Clearly, the case is half won: the D.A. cannot insist that there is no Santa Claus without making himself out a liar before his son. Then Fred begins a laudatory history of the United States Post Office, praising it for its diligence, its scrupulous impartiality and the strict adherence to the law that makes it a crime to intentionally misdeliver the mail. To a joyous chorus of “That Man Over There” (reprise), mail sack after mail sack of letters to Santa Claus are delivered to Kris in the courtroom. The U.S. Government recognizes Kris as Santa! The case is dismissed. Doris returns to the store. She is still bewildered, but sure that Kris does have the power to grant wishes. When Fred arrives, Doris realizes that her secret dream, as well as Susan’s, has come true. She and Fred fall into a loving embrace, and as the lights go up we see that they are standing in the middle of a Connecticut house display in Macy’s window. A startled crowd watches them from the sidewalk outside. Kris emerges from the throng with a merry twinkle in his eye and a wink that seems to say, “Here’s joy, here’s Christmas: Here’s Love.”

Credits

(in order of appearance) Mr. Kris Kringle: Laurence Naismith Fred Gaily: Craig Stevens Susan Walker: Valerie Lee Marvin Shellhammer: Fred Gwynne Doris Walker: Janis Paige R.H. Macy: Paul Reed Hendrika: Kathy Cody Mr. Psawyer: David Doyle Mr. Gimbel: William Griffis Judge Martin Group: Cliff Hall D.A. Thomas Mara: Larry Douglas Tammany O’Halloran: Arthur Rubin Thomas Mara, Jr: Ronnie Kroll With: Michael Bennett, Gene Kelton, Bill Stanton, Patrick Cummings, Diane Ball, Sandra Roveta, Patti Pappathatos, Elaine Cancilla, Sal Lombardo, Mara Landi, Suzanne France, Reby Howells, Darrell Sandeen, Hal Norman, Bob Mcclure, Mary Louise, Leesa Troy, John Sharpe, Del Horstman And: Debbie Breen, Terrin Miles, Ceil Delli, Penny Gaston, Duane Bodin, Baayork Lee, David Lober, Bill Louther, Carolsue Shaer