(This review is written by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Cate Blouke.)
We all have our favorite holiday films, the ones we watch every year without fail to ring in the holiday season. But whether or not “Miracle on 34th Street” is a staple on your list, Penfold Theatre’s classic radiocast of the story cannot fail to plunge you into the Christmas spirit.
After three successful seasons of their “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live Radio Show,” Penfold continues to prove that you don’t need a fancy set or dramatic lighting to bring a show to life with this brand new holiday classic, playing through Dec. 27th at Old Settler’s Hall in Round Rock.
Nathan Jerkins has done an excellent job adapting the 1947 film and directing his five-person cast through a whirlwind of characters and sound effects.
Dirk van Allen is a dead ringer for Kris Kringle – the older gentleman who stumbles his way into playing Santa Clause for Macy’s on the day of the Thanksgiving Parade. Of course, the plot twist is that Kris really is Santa Clause, come to New York to investigate the flagging Christmas spirit.
Shenanigans ensue, and it falls to Fred Gailey (Brock England) to keep Kris out of an institution by proving in a court of law that he really is Santa Clause. England is enchanting in his unflagging holiday cheer, both as the savvy lawyer and the myriad bit roles he steps into. He certainly wins over the heart of Doris Walker (Sarah Marie Curry), a woman whose no-nonsense practicality has closed her off from wonder.
As the show’s announcer, Mr. Macy, and about a million other characters, Joe Hartman could charm even Ebenezer Scrooge’s cold heart into some serious Christmas cheer. And Julie Linnard similarly dazzles and delights with her versatility and comic timing.
Relying on the actor’s voices and Buzz Moran’s superb sound design to tell the story, the show nevertheless remains dynamic without a lot of moving around. Glenda Barnes costumes are icing on the cake, leaving the actors truly dressed for success.
To really get yourself a full dose of holiday cheer, drive up early and visit the 1.5 mile Round Rock Rock’N Lights Holiday Light Tour at the Old Settlers Association and Dell Diamond parking lot (right next door to the venue).
“Miracle on 34th Street: Live Radio Show” continues 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through December 27. (No performance Dec. 25), and 3 p.m. Dec. 20 $23-25. Old Settlers Association, 3300 East Palm Valley Blvd, Round Rock. www.penfoldtheatre.org