Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Creme de la Christmas Story

The classic holiday film gets a surprisingly great musical makeover
Photo courtesy of the Ordway

"My kid brother looked like a tick about to pop."

"He looks like a demented Easter bunny."

"My father worked in profanity the way other great artists worked in paints or clays."

Photo courtesy of the Ordway
Recognize any of these lines? They're among the many, many gems to be found in perennial TBS Christmas Eve 24-hour special A Christmas Story.

One of the most beloved holiday films ever, A Christmas Story is a delightfully narrated tale of one

boy's (Ralphie's) quest to get a Red Rider BB Gun for Christmas in his idyllic yet modest 1940 childhood. Woven in are fabulously funny side stories, including the beating up of a bully, sticking of a tongue to a flagpole, a drunk Santa with demented elves, and the infamous leg lamp (or as Ralphie's father puts it "Major Award").

This live-on-stage musical version, then, was a tricky bet; it's always difficult to transition a good film into a good show, and adding music could have been a mess. Thankfully, it wasn't.

A Christmas Story has its hiccups, but on the whole this was a funny, heartwarming rendition. It follows the movie very closely, and has plenty of fun in the process. The songs are not only fine, but some are terrific; "Ralphie to the Rescue" was a particularly enchanting spoof on classic "western" phrases heard in the likes of Aaron Copland scores and John Wayne/Clint Eastwood films.

Photo courtesy of the Ordway
The cast has solid musical chops. Jake Goodman shines as Ralphie, and his fantastic voice (seriously, this kid can't be more than 12, and he's got Idina Menzel's vocal swagger down pat) carries the show. This might be the Achilles heel of A Christmas Story; I can't imagine the show being quite as enjoyable with a lesser talent playing Ralphie.

Photo courtesy of the Ordway
Another shining star is Billie Wildrick as Ralphie's mother; she has terrific moments on "Just Like That" and "What a Mother Does." The ensemble of children, as well as Dieter Bierbrauer as Ralphie's Old Man, are solid as well. And although lacking some of the snap of the narrator in the film, Gary Briggle is warm and inviting as the narrator Jean Shepherd, whisking us through the story in a comfortably husky tone.

The set is of note as a period appropriate, festive piece. It snows, has a shiny Olds, sepia-ed gifts, itchy sweaters - the whole package, in other words. There are even live dogs to play the Bumpus Hounds, who cavort across the stage in highly entertaining fashion.

A Christmas Story on stage is just as enchanting as it is on film. It's funny, warm, heartening, and absolutely worth a visit. It's also appropriate for all family members. Take a break from the holiday madness and sit for a few hours in Ralphie's world; I promise you won't regret it.

And, because I can't help it at all, here's a mashup of the songs (I really did love them!!):

For more information on tickets and the show, click here.