6th-grader loves her role in 'Miracle on 34th Street'

For many people, the 1947 film “Miracle on 34th Street,” has maintained its popularity throughout the decades. Luckily for those who remember it (and those who have never seen it), the San Diego Musical Theatre’s version is onstage through Dec. 24 at the Horton Grand Theatre.

Julia Van Skike, a sixth-grader at Mount Everest Academy, and daughter of Steve and Suzy Van Skike of La Jolla, has the lead role as Susan Walker, and the holiday classic will be adapted from the 1947 Lux Radio Hour Broadcast and staged with live, Foley effects and a score of holiday carols. The heartwarming plot whirls around a department store Santa who claims he’s the real Kris Kringle, and his case is taken all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But wait! Can a miracle unfold when the belief of a little girl makes all the difference in what happens?

“I’m very excited to be part of the story told in the format of a live radio broadcast on the stage,” Van Skike said. “I’ve seen the original movie and I’ve taken vocal, acting and dance lessons, as well as master classes and workshops. I love to sing and was inspired when I heard my friend Claire Scheper sing at her recital some years ago. She encouraged me to audition for a musical.”

Van Skike has been in 12 local productions through the years, among them as Cindy Lou Who in “Seussical” (Coronado Playhouse), as Gretl in “Sound of Music” (Christian Youth Theatre), as Electra in “Cats” (California Youth Conservatory), as well as performing at December Nights, the Zoo Centennial Celebration, and other shows around town.

She said she has many favorite scenes in her current show. “My very favorite is the ‘monkey scene’ where Susan, along with the help from Kris Kringle, has unique experiences when using her imagination,” she said. “One of the important things to remember about this story is that faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to."

Like most professional entertainers, Van Skike has come to be aware of the sacrifices to her everyday life to maintain a performance career. “I have to balance schoolwork with my acting commitments, and sometimes sacrifice sleep and time to read,” she said. “But my parents support me fully and drive me constantly where I need to go. I absolutely love performing and plan to continue my theater training and go to college and major in theater.”

IF YOU GO: San Diego Musical Theatre’s “Miracle on 34th Street,” runs through Dec. 24 at the Horton Grand Theatre, 444 Fourth Ave., downtown. Tickets from $25. (858) 560-5740.

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