Dallas — Like lots of other places (retail stores, we're looking at you), Christmas came early to Dallas Children's Theater with two heartwarming reasons to get out and grab some holiday spirit.
Miracle on 34th Street, playing in the larger Baker Theater at DCT's Rosewood Center for Family Arts, revisits the familiar story of Kris Kringle, the newest employee at Macy's (located on 34th Street in New York City), who is not only good at his seasonal job as Santa, he believes he really is Santa. All he has to do is convince everyone else, including the world-weary divorced single mom who hired him and her equally cynical daughter, Susan. The stakes get higher when Kris is called upon to plead his case in court.
Under the direction of DCT's founder and executive artistic director, Robyn Flatt, the classic tale based on the book and the movie written by Valentine Davies, gets an elaborate staging with added surprises, just in case this isn't your first trip to 34th Street. Instead of the straight play most theaters stage, this Miracle on 34th Street is interspersed with familiar carols under the musical direction of Adam C. Wright, including a jazzy version of "The Man With the Bag" led by Santa's two enthusiastic and talented head elves, Molly Welch and Rachel Clo. Adding the carols gives the show a more festive feel as well as moves along the scene changes from the Macy's parade to the store's toyland and finally, a courtroom.
Flatt also helps with the scene changes by using all of the Baker Theater—every entrance and aisle—to great effect. The opening sequence with popcorn and balloon vendors, a car, and even a cameo by the Rockettes gets the show off to an exciting start. And just so the little ones don't get bored in the shows more "talky" moments, they're sure to have their attention drawn to those cute, mischievous elves who seem to pop up in the most unlikely of places.
Bob Lavallee's beautiful set design is rich in details and visuals. The stark look of Central Park in winter "feels" cold and gives way to a nostalgic holiday wonderland that department stores in days gone by were known for at Christmas.
Kyle Hughes does an admirable job as the no-nonsense Doris Walker with Lily Forbes playing her practical-minded daughter, Susan, for the Sunday matinee. Forbes shares the role of Susan with Blaire Messmann. DCT newcomer Owen Beans serves up a lovable Fred Gayley as their next-door neighbor. Although it's hard to see exactly what Fred sees in overworked Doris, it's clear he's crazy about Susan and trying to help her find some childlike wonder.
Bob Hess and K. Doug Miller almost steal the show with their cartoonish portrayals of Macy's snippy, overwrought vocational guidance counselor and the store's easily excitable, frazzled store manager. Their employee meeting scene with old-fashioned clicker and placards, used before PowerPoint became a thing, is hilarious. By contrast, Brad Jackson's role as Kris' friend and confidante, Dr. Pierce, is sweet and sincere.
No one can steal this show from the man of the hour, especially when he's played by Francis Fuselier, one of the most authentic looking and sounding Santas to grace the stage. From his grandfatherly mannerisms to the twinkle in his kind voice, this Kris Kringle is the real deal. When he enters during the show's spectacular finale, even the most cynical Scrooge can't help but believe.
Over in DCT's intimate Studio Theater, there's another holiday favorite to jump start the season, Frosty the Snowman, starring in a charming new musical written and arranged by B. Wolf and performed by the Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts. Their show, Frosty & Friends, runs concurrently with Miracle on 34th Street for two ways to enjoy the holidays with the family.
The kids will be delighted to watch Frosty come to life right before their very eyes, while the adults can marvel in the artistry of the puppeteers, beginning with Frosty's fancy ice skating at the top of the show, under the masterful puppeteering by Douglass Burks, and again when the marionettes in Santa's workshop come to life.
Kathy Burks and company created new puppets for this show. They include elves, Santa and Mrs. Claus, a lost reindeer, a snowy owl, playful kittens, and some pretty talented tree decorations that put on a little show of their own.