“I was dazzled. You’d have to have a grinch-size heart not to feel a smile spreading across your face.” – New York Times
“Very funny…Impossible to resist.” – San Francisco Chronicle
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
“A twinkling Christmas delight!” – Broadway World St. Louis
The Southington Observer Review by Mike Chaiken:
“A Christmas Story: The Musical” is the perfect night out to help put the entire family into a Christmas spirit.
The stage show is based on the movie, “A Christmas Story,” which in turn was based on the stories of radio host Jean Shepard. And it is given a fine treatment in the road tour, which stops into Hartford this weekend.
The show, which I saw on Nov. 24, will find a multitude of ways into the hearts of each generation. The show is set in the 1940s. And for older members of the audience, say from their 50s to 80s, it will remind them of a simpler time, when Christmas was more about what Santa brought you based on your behavior rather than what you felt you were entitled to because of the luck of the calendar. For the generation that followed, the show is loving adaptation of the movie that many grew up watching on cable television as it was put on an endless loop each Christmas Eve. And for the children, the show is fun because it’s about being a child. The humor is designed to allow them to laugh at the events on stage (while still tickling the funny bone of nostalgic adults).
The most important character in the show is Ralphie, the 9-year-old who covets a BB gun for Christmas but is told again and again, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” But he is dogged in his persistence, but not in an unscrupulous way– but in a way that mines the parameters of a world where superior behavior might lead to superior gifts.
Tristan Klaphake did a great job as this evening’s Ralphie. (The show alternates between two.) There was the right amount of childlike wonder in his performance. He had a fine voice in the musical numbers, and he was immensely watchable, and we rooted for him every step of the way. This wasn’t an adult in miniature or a precocious mensch. Klaphake was a kid, plain and simple, and a kid we could root for.
Paul Nobrega, as the Old Man, did a great job of bringing laughs to the proceedings. Again, however there was a balance. He found the humor in the character and being part of the story rather than milk the jokes. His rubbery facial expressions added exclamation points to the gentle humor of “A Christmas Story.” His moment to shine was “A Major Award,” where he danced around with the film’s most iconic symbol, the lamp in shape of a leg. Nobrega also worked tenderness into the gruff, expletive-spouting, father-figure. We could tell he loved his family even as life sometimes beat him down.
Chris Carsten also was superb as the narrator Jean Shepard. As he pulled together the individual vignettes of the show, his vocal inflections and energy helped propel the proceedings along and vested the audience in the action. He had a true knack for the art of storytelling.
The younger cast members of the wimps and bullies accompanying Klaphake also did a great job of providing the feel for the era. The director, Matt Lenz, was smart enough to cast young actors who evoked more “Leave it to Beaver” than Disney Channel.
“A Christmas Story: The Musical” from the top down was great fun. It got me into the holiday spirit without becoming too schmaltzy, and thankfully it avoided post-modern slip into commercial cynicism.
Bring the whole family. Everyone will get a kick out of it.
I give it 3 ½ stars out of 4.
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.
RBTL’s ‘A Christmas Story, the Musical’ a lively, hilarious affair: Review
A Christmas Story, the Musical reimagines the 1983 holiday film classic with rollicking songs and dance and brings new life and great voices to the season. It’s at RBTL’s Auditorium Theatre through Sunday, and you don’t want to miss it.
Adoring fans, rest easy. Joseph Robinette’s adaption, directed by Matt Lenz, enlivens iconic scenes and characters and heightens its humor. The lamp, the light pole and the turkey-mad Bumpus Hounds (Ross and Stella) are all there.
The movie was an amalgamation of two books by humorist Jean Shepherd: the 1966 In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash and his 1971 book, Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories. The musical premiered on Broadway in 2012 and was nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best New Musical.
Chris Carsten as Shepherd, with a warm and wonderful radio voice, narrates his tale: 9-year-old Ralphie Parker (Tristan Klaphake) embarks on a wildly inventive quest to get his Old Man (Paul Nobrega) and Mother (Sara Zoe Budnik) to buy him an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle for Christmas.
The role of Ralphie is shared by two actors on the tour. On opening night, Tristan Klaphake’s performance was flawless, without a single dropped note.
As young Ralphie negotiates a dangerous landscape, a standout was hilariously whiny kid brother Randy (Evan Christy) amid a talented ensemble of classmates, who join him in the weeks before Christmas in a 1940 Indiana where children still worry about being naughty or nice.
The music that weaves throughout comes courtesy of acclaimed composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, whose work includes Dear Evan Hansen and James and the Giant Peach. More recently the pair won the 2017 Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Original Song for the La La Land song, “City of Stars.”
Three standout numbers mix with quieter moments.
“Ralphie to the Rescue” brings everyone on stage for a fast-moving song and dance as Ralphie fantasizes a heroic save-the-day with BB gun in hand. In “A Major Award,” Paul Nobrega takes center stage with his contest win, the sensuous Lady Leg lamp, in a rousing Busby Berkeley-like performance where even the Leg gets to kick its heel. The scene explodes with colors, and Nobrega’s triumph of the ego is captured in every dance step.
An unleashed Miss Shield (Angelica Richie), Ralphie’s teacher and BB gun blocker, rips up the stage in “You’ll Shoot your Eye Out.” She’s joined in a tap-dance tap off with one super talented kid who, alas, was not named in the opening night’s program. More quiet and moving — if the scattered sighs and “ahhs” from the audience were any indication — was Sara Zoe Budnik’s kitchen solo, “What a Mother Does.”
Special kudos go to the choreography originally by Warren Carlyle, then taken a step forward on tour by Jason Sparks. The scenic design by Mike Carnahan brings the 1940s alive, as does Lisa Zinni and Michael McDonald’s costume design, with the stage full of plaid dresses and baggy pants and the Parker’s fairytale TV-free home.
The musical’s charm radiates in the delightfully dysfunctional Parker family. The Old Man swears a litany of nonsense obscenities “fluthering Shirleyplusters!” as he battles a furnace that blows smoke into the kitchen every few days and the Oldsmobile with its nonexistent tire tread. Drunken Santa (Nic Casaula), with his heart of dross, still helps Ralphie down the slide with his boot. And Ralphie saves the serenity of Christmas morning with a whopping lie. Truly an American family classic.
By its end, the theater was transformed into one big family, humming with a Christmas spirit. A Christmas Story, the Musical transcends today’s troubles and returns us to a simpler time, where perseverance and love triumph over any obstacle no matter how flawed the family, or how big the dream.