Thursday, 4 December 2014

Miracle on 34th Street

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars
Imagine what might happen if a shop store Santa Claus started to advise
the cash-strapped mums of the pre-schoolers he promises the world to to
go somewhere cheaper. Today, just as in Meredith Willson's 1963 stage
musical of the 1957 feel-good film, chances are the white-bearded
anarchist would have his mental health questioned before being sent for
trial. Especially if the old man actually believed he was Santa Claus,
real life facial hair and all.

Such may be the way of capitalism at Christmas, but John Durnin's
lavish production for Pitlochry Festival Theatre's ensemble make it
clear that, at this time of year, at least, suspension of disbelief is
paramount to overcoming seasonal cynicism no matter how extreme. This
is certainly the case with thoroughly modern middle manager Doris,
who's been unceremoniously dumped and left to bring up her equally
jaded daughter Susan on her own. Enter ex military man and would-be
lawyer Fred to become father figure, suitor and saviour of the day.

Surrounded by an ever-shifting array of mini skyscrapers that all but
hides Dougie Flowers' eight-piece band, the cast rise to the occasion
with a wholesome vivacity in an all-singing, all-dancing display. As
Doris and Fred, Isla Carter and Stuart Reid spark off each other with
vintage appeal, while Kirsty McLaren comes into her own as a grown-up
too soon Susan, who learns to believe again following a fantastical
birthday party in the toy department. It is James Smillie's turn as
avuncular guru Kris Kringle, the man who may or may not be Santa,
however, that steals a show where faith isn't something to be bought
and sold at any time of year.

The Herald, December 4th 2014


ends

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