ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Review
A Christmas Story, The Musical!
A Christmas Story: The Musical!, from Shepherd’s book, In God We Trust, Everyone Else Pays Cash, comes to Broadway in an exuberant song and dance, gift-wrapped family package at the Lunt-Funtanne Theatre. The portrait of Christmas in Hohman, Indiana 1940 is ab old-fashioned effort that tries to keep a balance between reality and fantasy. If details are dated, fhe theme of family closeness, is timeless.
In a mix of smart and silly tongue-in-cheek, Joseph Robinette’s adaptation of Shepherd’s original is unabashedly warm-hearted and hectic. The score by young theater writers Justin Paul and Benj Pasek conveys the high-spirited rhythms of the 1930’s and ’40’s. Dan Lauria replicates Jean Shepherd's story-teller, bringing energy to his narration through the elaborate words of the grown-up Ralph.
With Mother fussing in the kitchen, Dad (lovingly called, “The Old Man”) going to work and worrying over bills, the story centers on their persuasive bespectacled nine-year-old son, Ralphie Parker (played here by Johnny Rabe and alternately by Joe West). Like the other kids, Ralphie goes to school, minds Miss Shields, the teacher, squabbles with his younger brother Randy (Zac Ballard), and is embarrassed by his parents. It is three weeks before Christmas and Ralphie is struggling on the rocky road of fervent anticipation for his dream gift, "a Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time.”
Facing inevitable mishaps, Ralphie schemes for the rifle, “the Holy Grail of Christmas presents.” Things do not look promising when his mother, teacher, and even Santa, scoff, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” A fight with a neighborhood bully further hurts his case, but Ralphie’s worst moment comes after he blurts out the “F” word (“I said the word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the "F-dash-dash-dash" word! I had broken the number one verboten rule”.) Obviously, those were different times.
Laughs come when The Old Man (John Bolton) wins the grand award of a tacky lamp fashioned like a lady’s leg clad in a stocking. Another f crowd-pleasing touch comes from Mr. Bumpus’ dogs that chase The Old Man home every night. Later Ralphie’s pal Flick (Jeremy Shinder), takes the triple dog dare, betting that his tongue will not stick to a steel flagpole. It does and it works. There were no bah-humbugs heard in this audience.
Ralphie’s adventures are energized by Paul and Pasek’s musical segments flavored with the sound of Broadway and old movies. “When You’re a Wimp,” with tense phrasing reminiscent of West Side Story’s “The Jet Song,” accompanies Ralphie and the kids running into the school bullies led by Scut Farkus (Jack Mastrianne). Daydreaming in class morphs into, “Ralphie to the Rescue!,” a showbiz Wild West scene with cowboys, dancing girls and Ralphie bravely wielding his rifle. In Act II, a 1930s speakeasy fantasy, “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out,” shows Miss Shields (Caroline O’Connor) strutting like a saucy gangster’s moll. Among the dancers, Luke Spring, a pint-sized fellow, steals the scene with some limber Nicholas Brothers moves and traces of Michael Jackson.
The sizable cast hosts a capable parade of stock everyday Indiana characters. Zac Ballard (alternately played by John Babbo), does well playing Randy, the little brother who, according to Ralphie, “has not eaten voluntarily in over three years.” John Bolton portrays The Old Man as a hyperactive but loving bumbler. As Ralphie describes him, “My father worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay.” One example, “You filty sicken hook-aid! Oh, smelly wok buster! Grout shell fratten house stickle fifer! You bladder puss nut grafter! Dorton hoper. . .” Mother (Erin Dilly) keeps her boys on the right moral track and the meals coming. Dilly proves her warm sensitivity and delightful voice, when she soothes Ralphie with a gentle ballad, “Just Like That.” (“A moment comes/ A moment goes/ And just like that/ The moment’s gone.”)
A Christmas Story, The Musical! was produced by Peter Billingsley who was the film version’s original Ralphie. Robinette’s book focused on relating the story through the children’s eyes, making the parents somewhat comical and providing adventures that are dated but familiar. Walt Spangler's cartoon sets feature cardboard trees lining the streets and hae the Parker’s home open like a doll house. Warren Carlyle's choreography has some challenging dance moves for the children, which they handle well. Costume designe, Elizabeth Hope Clancy demonstrates her flair for the period and adds the perk of comedy.
Norman Rockwell’s old Saturday Evening Post covers were nostalgic pictures of idealized small town life. Jean Shepherd put those image into words on the radio. A Christmas Story, The Musical! is an exaggerated image of the holiday but it delivers a sackful of timeless goodies. As Ralphie falls asleep on Christmas night, he cradles his rifle, “the greatest Christmas gift I had ever received. You kiddin’? My Old Man, my dad, gave it to me.”
Slings & Arrows- view 1st episode free
Anything Goes Cast Recording
Our review of the show
Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show