Like that long, rifle-shaped box sitting in the corner on Christmas morning in the Parker household, this show is a gift waiting to be unwrapped. – Buffalo News
“A twinkling Christmas delight!” – Broadway World St. Louis
This musical is everything a piece of musical theater ought to be. –Broadway World Baltimore
Five Stars! this seasonal musical is sure to become a treasured classic much like it’s film counterpart for years to come. You’ll shoot your eye out if you miss this miraculous production. – TheatreBloom
Ralphie’s song and dance is a big crowd pleaser. – Atlanta Journal-Constitution
This production should satisfy fans of musical theater, fans of the movie, fans of holiday shows, fans of family-friendly entertainment and really anyone who isn’t a Grinch or a Scrooge. – Broadway World Baltimore
“Chock-full of delightful songs and snappy dance numbers, ‘A Christmas Story, The Musical’ is sure to become a holiday stage classic for the entire family as it captures the seasonal wonder with deliciously wicked wit that is sure to delight children and grown-ups alike.” – Joint Forces Journal (San Francisco)
“A Christmas Story” is a brightly colored, kinetic injection of holiday spirit, enjoyable in equal measures for newbies and the nostalgic. – The Arizona Republic
Amazing! Hilariously entertaining! The greatest gift you can give your eyes and ears this pre-holiday season.” – Albuquerque To Do
“Very funny…Impossible to resist.” – San Francisco Chronicle
“A twinkling Christmas delight!” – Broadway World St. Louis
Buffalo News Review by Colin Dabkowski:
The weapons-grade nostalgia embedded in Jean Shepherd’s 1983 film “A Christmas Story” is powerful enough to supplant the childhood memories of its fans.
For a generation of viewers whose childhood Christmases were tinged with repeat viewings of that warm, sepia-toned blanket of a movie, the tale of young Ralphie and his family provides a kind of double-powered longing for their own youth and for a time they never knew.
That’s why TBS plays it for 24 hours straight every year. It’s why people who have seen it at least 100 times — I am not naming names here — will beg their significant others to watch just one more scene, and then one more scene, until somehow the credits are rolling.
The creators of “A Christmas Story: The Musical,” which runs through Dec. 18 in Shea’s Performing Arts Center, knew this well when they set out to transform the classic narrative into a song-and-dance spectacle. They had a daunting task ahead of them: to honor the well-memorized highlights of the film with song and to deepen its charm, rather than detract from it.
This touring production of the 2009 show, with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and a book by Joseph Robinette, is proof of their success. While it runs adds a bit too much padding to some of the film’s concise vignettes and runs slightly long, it brims with creativity and adds new layers of whimsy to a well-worn classic.
The show opens with Jean Shepherd, played with avuncular charm by Chris Casten, introducing the story on his radio program. Before we know it, a set piece by designer Walt Spangler emerges out of the Indiana fog like a memory: It’s 1940 and we’re all ensconced in the childhood home of Ralphie Parker (Arick Brooks), his younger brother Randy and his exasperated parents (Christopher Swan and Susannah Jones).
After a boilerplate introductory song that serves as a motif throughout the show, we’re treated to the soaring “Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun,” a classic musical theater “I Want” song delivered with wide-eyed yearning on opening night by young Austin Molinaro. (He trades off with Myles Moore in the lead role.)
The musical succeeds primarily by amplifying the film’s irresistible fantasy sequences into lush, extended fantasias. The show’s creators recognized that few things are more satisfying for kids than losing themselves in reveries of triumph or pity, a pursuit at which Ralphie excels.
The movie’s best such scene came when Ralphie imagined returning home as an adult who suffered blindness from soap poisoning at the hands of his cruel parents. But the musical shines brightest on Ralphie’s imaginary assault on a series of conjured enemies in the first-act fantasia “Ralphie to the Rescue,” a wildly inventive number choreographed by Warren Carlyle in which the protagonist picks off assorted bad guys with his shiny new Red Ryder BB gun.
The appealing score is a kind of Kander and Ebb-style pastiche, incorporating almost every imaginable style of mid-century musical theater music. These range from Swan’s “A Major Award,” a vaudevillian love-letter to a garish lamp he won in a contest to the “Chicago”-style “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out,” an over-the-top cabaret number led by Ralphie’s teacher Miss Shields (Angelica Richie).
Other highlights include a fine tap performance from young Lucas Marinetto, the songs “At Higbees” and “Up On Santa’s Lap,” which honors the famous scene in which a terror-stricken Ralphie has a nightmarish run-in with Santa and his elves.
Those looking for a different form of live holiday entertainment than “The Nutcracker” or “A Christmas Carol” could hardly do better than a trip to Shea’s this week. Like that long, rifle-shaped box sitting in the corner on Christmas morning in the Parker household, this show is a gift waiting to be unwrapped.
Broadway World Baltimore Review by Cybele Pomeroy:
If you’re Nutcrackered out, you’ve Christmas Caroled your last note, can’t handle any more Handel, I’d like to suggest A Christmas Story, The Musical, a touring live production based on the eponymous movie. It’s at Baltimore’s Hippodrome now through December 11th.
If you’ve ever wondered what’s with those leg lamps, the answer is A Christmas Story. If you’ve ever said “You’ll shoot your eye out!,” you were, perhaps unknowingly, referencing A Christmas Story. If you already know all about Ralphie and his family to the point quoting movie dialogue as part of your holiday tradition, you are the prime target audience for A Christmas Story, The Musical, music and lyrics written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul; book by Joseph Robinette.
The movie, set in 1940, released in 1983 and now a contemporary favorite, is based on the Jean Shepherd novel In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, which was itself based on Jean Shepherd’s radio rants, which he termed “anti-nostalgic’. Licking off the sweet coating that time uses to frost memories, Shepherd got to the nitty-gritty of actual life. This may be what the desperate, heartbroken 80’s appreciated, and why the film, formerly termed ‘sleeper’, has achieved cult status and major merchandising. In the movie, it is Jean Shepherd’s voice we hear as Adult Ralphie. The movie, by the way, is currently playing in Select Theaters Near You, Check Local Listings.
A Christmas Story, The Musical premiered on Broadway in 2012 and earned itself three Tony nominations, critical praise and big box office. It deserves all of those. It is based on the movie, but also on the writings and radio stories of Jean Shepherd, so Joseph Robinette’s book seems a bit more meaty than is the norm with movie-to-stage adaptations. It also re-glazes the story with sweetness and sentimentality, which is okay with me, especially for a holiday show.
This musical is everything a piece of musical theater ought to be. There is a little prologue with the character of Jean Shepherd, (capable actor Chris Carsten, in his third season with the show) who introduces us to his retrospection using the device of his radio programme, complete with On Air sign, stool, mic and surly-looking, non-eye-contacting ‘tech.’ The opening that follows the prologue is structured similarly to the opening of State Fair, which I mean as a compliment. We know immediately who is whom and the exact nature of the piece’s dramatic crux. Devotees of the movie will find much that is familiar, though there has been some rearrangement, extension, enhancement and addition. Dialogue flows as stage dialogue should: with snappy delivery, different voices and more wit than is common in Real Life. Musical numbers are lively and either reveal character or move the plot, insofar as A Christmas Story has a plot. Scene changes are rapid and full of suggestive, cartoonish, children’s holiday pagent-styled elements. Ralphie’s home is an adorable cutaway dollhouse which slides pneumatically in and out as needed. Scenic designer Walt Spangler’s original Broadway design has been adapted for the touring show by Michael Carnahan, and it works beautifully.
Other tech is a bit uneven- some followspots a shade too slow, body mics that don’t come on at the precise time- but overall, the sound quality is good and clear, the lighting doing just what it ought to illuminate the action (plus a swift but lovely sunrise) and some superior quick changes managed by backstage Wardrobe hands.
The costuming, designed for the tour by Lisa Zinni based on Elizabeth Hope Clancy’s Broadway costumes, is appropriate for each character and scene and allows for some really fun dance numbers. Warren Carlyle’s choreography, adapted for the tour by Jason Sparks, is imaginative and fresh and really crisp. The ensemble of children, who represent about half of the Acting Company, is a talented group of singer/dancers, and manage some of the set pieces with the skill of seasoned performers.
Austin Molinaro as Ralphie is charming, dear, and if some of his notes are a trifle wavery, they’re all resoundingly enthusiastic. Arick Brooks as little brother Randy is alternately a live wire and a floppy wet noodle. Susannah Jones as Mother has a wonderful soprano, and two solo numbers which feature it prominently. Angelica Richie as Miss Shields is great fun as a sensuous woman repressed by the social mores of her time and her vocation as a schoolteacher, especially in context of the fantasy sequences. The roles of the parents have been reimagined for the stage and make the parents into much more sympathetic (and attractive) characters. Show-stealing bragging rights go, I’m afraid, (sorry, kids; sorry, hounds) to the fabulously flexible, elegantly articulate Christopher Swan as The Old Man. I can do no better than to quote Alexander Woolcott in his review of I’ll Say She Is!: “Surely there should be dancing in the streets when a great clown comic comes to town, and this man is a great clown.” Swan handles The Old Man’s complex creative swearing with glib unforced naturalness and his bursts of temper with unabashed impotence.
This production should satisfy fans of musical theater, fans of the movie, fans of holiday shows, fans of family-friendly entertainment and really anyone who isn’t a Grinch or a Scrooge. Overall, it’s warmer, more cute and less disgruntled than its source material, but you’re unlikely to need an insulin shot afterwards.
The Times (Pittsburgh) Review by Megan Miller:
It all comes down to Christmas. There’s only a limited number of days to drop hints for that perfect Christmas present.
For Ralphie Parker, it’s a Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun, and he has about 2½ hours to tell his story before the clock strikes holiday. That story is at the heart of “A Christmas Story, The Musical,” running through Sunday at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh.
For Tuesday’s performance, Austin Molinaro stepped into the green sweater vest – and later the hideous pink bunny suit – to play the lead in this movie-turned-Tony-nominated- musical. The 12-year-old from Chicago is so sweet and so talented as the precocious Ralphie. He dreams big and sings even bigger as he tries to convince his parents, teacher and Santa Claus that he needs – yes, needs – a BB gun, which results in one of the best scenes of the show, “Ralphie to the Rescue!” As Molinaro dances around in chaps with the BB gun, he proves he could be a real hero and save his classmates and others from evil, thanks to the Red Ryder.
The musical follows the plot of the classic film so closely, though there are over a dozen Broadway-style musical numbers that make “A Christmas Story, The Musical” a great show to kick off the holiday season.
The other contender for the production’s best moment comes courteous of another hideous, yet iconic, item from “A Christmas Story” – the leg lamp. Thrilled he won a prize, a prize his wife despises, The Old Man admires the tacky lamp, thinking it’s the most important prize. Actor Christopher Swan leads the dance of the leg lamps in “A Major Award,” a kitschy, over-the-top number with high kicks and plenty of lit-up lamps, in an ode to Old Broadway.
Different from the majority of the musicals that come through Pittsburgh, “A Christmas Story” features about a dozen children in the cast, from Flick (Wyatt Oswald) being triple-dog-dared to stick his tongue to a flag pole, to Randy (Arick Brooks), Ralphie’s brother and partner-in-crime, to the ensemble of pre-teens and teenagers who sing and tap dance to help tell the story and amuse the audience.
But there are two more characters worth mentioning here – The Bumpus Hounds, the adorable dogs named Hoss and Stella that agitate The Old Man. Whether they’re running across the stage or stealing the Christmas turkey, the hounds got some of the biggest coos and giggles throughout the show.
“A Christmas Story, The Musical” keeps all of the major references, iconic tidbits and nostalgia generations of fans have admired from the movie. But the musical is just as enjoyable, even more so, courtesy of the cast’s talent and the show’s sparkling songs.
Broadway World Memphis Review by Caroline Sposto:
This exuberant stage production is like a Norman Rockwell painting brought to life. Set in Hohman, Indiana in 1940, raconteur, Jean Shepherd (Chris Carsten) reminiscences about nine-year-old Ralphie’s obsessive wish for an official Red Ryder, Carbine-Action, 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle B-B gun.
Based on the iconic 1983 film, and adapted by acclaimed librettist Joseph Robinette this version is heavy on well-crafted exposition. Most audience members, being familiar with the film, know what’s coming, and that group dynamic–as in the case of most beloved holiday season traditions–makes this sleigh ride all the more fun!
Served up with generous dollops of nostalgic, tongue-in-cheek Americana, this tale rests on the bittersweet inner workings of a perfectly imperfect depression-era family wintering through the last innocent, pre-WWII yuletide.
Though I wasn’t around in the 40’s, I’m old enough to remember a time when America’s working class had a far more solid foothold in our country, and that alone made this portrayal tug at my heartstrings.
Thanks to the sensibilities of director Matt Lenz, this show moves with high energy and snowball-style momentum, delivering a tour de force of guaranteed crowd pleasers at every turn–trained dogs, splashy, over-the-top dance numbers,(choreography by Warren Carlyle), nonstop costume changes, (designed by Elizabeth Hope Clancy and adapted for the tour by Lisa Zinni) and an impressive ensemble full of talented kids. As with most musicals, some characters serve as foils or devices, while others are have more dimension. That said, each performer in this highly-skilled cast exudes a memorable charisma and inhabits his or her role in earnest. This well-cast tale, told in a retrospective universal “I” (the wiser adult explaining how the world looked through his youthful eyes) speaks to all of our idiosyncrasies, loyalties, dreams and delusions.
Due to the demands of Ralphie’s role, two veteran child actors (Colton Maurer and Evan Gray) perform on alternate evenings. (I happened to see Colton Maurer. Bravo!) Ralphie’s parents are played by Chrisopher Swan and Susannah Jones, who delivers an exceedingly poignant and believable performance.
The tangential momentum of this yarn requires a never-ending transition in mood and setting. Walt Spangler‘s scenic designs (adapted for the tour by Michael Carnahan) transport us without fail, enhanced in no small part by exquisite lighting design (created by Howell Binkley and adapted for the tour by Charlie Morrison.)
My only misgiving about this particular musical is that, while it delivers several clever showstoppers (most notably “Ralphie to the Rescue” and “A Major Award” – about the leg lamp), it never reaches a musical zenith. Just as most great plays have a signature monologue, most great musicals have a signature song, but nothing in this show made the grade. (I didn’t walk out humming a tune, or with any desire to buy the sheet music or soundtrack.)
That said, if you’re looking for a fresh holiday outing that will delight all ages, look no further. Not sappy, cynical or shamelessly commercialized, A Christmas Story, The Musical makes for delightfully wholesome family fare.