A Christmas Story the Musical | The Fabulous Fox Theatre

A-Christmas-Story 75When it was over, I was filled with Christmas spirit and hungry for Chinese food.

A-Christmas-Story 500

A Christmas Story premiered in 1983 as a feature film based upon author Jean Shepard’s radio show which he turned into a volume of short stories. Appropriately, A Christmas Story the Musical begins with the narrator, Jean Shepard, at a microphone behind an On Air sign setting up the story we are about to hear. He tells us of his burning childhood desire for a coveted Christmas gift, a red ryder carbine action BB gun from Higbee’s department store. If you are an adult, this is the point in my review where you say to the main character of our story, Ralphie Parker, “you’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”

Poor Ralphie, played in the opening night production by Colton Maurer (he will alternate with Evan Gray), yearns for this BB gun. The plot of A ChristmasA-Christmas-Story 300 Story centers around Ralphie trying to get this BB gun for Christmas. He thinks that his parents, played by Susannah Jones and Christopher Swan, are oblivious to his tactics and Ralphie tries everything. If you are familiar with A Christmas Story movie, the narration dialogue from the older “Ralphie”, Jean Shepard, is almost exactly the same. The famous scenes from the movie are recreated on stage and although you are watching the same events unfold, the feeling and tone are not what you expect. One of the best parts of the movie is The Old Man, Ralphie’s dad. He’s crabby, cranky, he hates the neighbors’ dogs, he loves turkey, and he’s proud of his leg lamp. In the musical, The Old Man has all these qualities, but he is also a musical theatre actor who sings like he is classically trained. What this gives us is a musical that takes a very different tone from the movie on which it is based. The sarcasm is gone and replaced by sweetness and love. Mother sings two beautiful songs about how much she loves her family and treasures the time she spends with them and in the process, Susannah Jones gives us a fabulous performance. Social commentary, such as the scene in the movie where Ralphie is disappointed that his decoder ring advertises Ovaltine, has disappeared.

This musical breaks W.C. Field’s famous rule, never work with animals or children. The Old Man famously hates the Bumpus hounds, his annoying neighbor’s dogs. In this production, they are played by two real dogs, Hoss and Stella. The child actors in this production were fantastic. Ralphie and his brother Randy (Cal Alexander) were both great singers and excellent dancers. In the movie, Ralphie imagines a few scenes with his red ryder BB gun. These are executed with ease as musical numbers. “Ralphie to the Rescue!” in act one shows Ralphie in his white cowboy hat and chaps saving everyone with his new gun. “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out” features Ralphie’s teacher Miss Shields (Avital Asuleen) in a fantasy 1930’s speakeasy that ends with a tap dance number that could rival any in a classic musical. The dancing skills were very impressive and in the musical ode to the leg lamp, “A Major Award”, the cast executes choreography with leg lamps while the child actors dance with miniature versions.

To increase the drama at certain points in the story, the cast goes into slow motion. This makes things a lot funnier, especially in the when Ralphie climbs back up the Christmas slide to ask Santa Claus for the BB gun. Fans of the movie will be satisfied at various points by seeing a tongue stuck to a flagpole, a pink bunny suit, and a child eating his food like a pig.

This musical is silly, fun, and sentimental. At certain points, I found myself laughing out loud. When it was over, I was filled with Christmas spirit and hungry for Chinese food. | Emily Scharf

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