Center Stage: ‘A Christmas Story’ review
As the holiday season is upon us, so are the inevitable Christmas plays and musical extravaganzas; but the musical version of the 1983 movie “A Christmas Story” currently wowing audience at the Broadway Palm Dinner theater is different. A Christmas Story started out as a radio tale as told by Jean Shepherd, then it became a book, morphed into a 1983 movie, then a 2012 Broadway musical crafted by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul writing music and lyrics.
Thank goodness this is not the usual “cute” family Christmas fare which makes grown people gag, by featuring oodles of cute, too good to be true, constantly smiling, little moppets (that are like no kids I ever grew up with in Brooklyn,) that, and because I really like this movie – I’ll admit that I didn’t have high expectations for liking this production. Boy, was I ever wrong, since the Palm’s version is a faithful reproduction of this fun and funny holiday classic.
This musical perfectly captures the spirit of the movie and is very faithful to the story. Because of that, it is one of the best Christmas shows I’ve seen in a long time. The show is perfectly cast, and the stars of this show are the kids; they don’t have a case of the “cutes,” but are all top-notch singers, dancers and actors performing like professionals. Believe me, as far as I’m concerned there is no higher compliment than that. First among equals is, of course, Ralphie (played to perfection by multi- talented Christian Miller, the night we saw the show). Ralphie is our bespectacled hero: target of bullies, ardent petitioner of a toy store’s bored Santa; he is also a wide-eyed witness to double-dog dares (which glued his best friends tongue to a pole). This part and the rest of Ralphie’s story is told by his adult double (supposedly Jean Shepherd himself,) portrayed with irrepressible warmth by Joshua Lehman.
As we know, Ralphie wants only one thing for Christmas: a Red Ryder Carbine Action B B Gun (“with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time”). Since we know all that, let it be said that this musical perfectly captures the spirit of the movie, and is indeed faithful to the story. What I wasn’t sure of how would adding musical numbers, add to this show. Wrong again; absolutely loved the musical show stoppers like “Ralphie to the Rescue”, where Ralphie imagines all the help he could provide with his BB gun. Ditto for “It’s A Major Award” the song and dance number featuring the cast using “the leg lamp” as a prop.
“A Christmas Story” is not only well written, and performed, it is inventively directed by Dean Sobon and cleverly choreographed by Sam Hugehes. The creative staff seemed to understand that fans of the movie would not want them to stray far from the original story, and in that respect, they were truly successful.
Acknowledgement as well as praise is also due to the fine adult cast:
* Ralphie’s Mom Benton Sheely
* Ralphie’s Old Man- Connor Simpson
* Randy (his kid brother)- Nicholas Salerno
* Miss Shields (Ralphie’s teacher)- Shannon Connolly
Space won’t allow my “bravos” or mentioning by name all the talented youngsters, elves, or ensemble adding so much to the enjoyment of this show. Sorry folks, you were terrific and deserved all the applause you got from your enthralled audience.
Bottom line, even if you have a Grinch-sized heart about Christmas and the razzle dazzle shows that are offered at this time of year; you will find yourself grinning from ear to ear, as you sit back and thoroughly enjoy watching a mighty talented cast, knocking it “out of the park”, viewing Broadway Palm’s “A Christmas Story”. This fine production only plays until Christmas Day Dec. 25. So don’t wait, phone the box office now at 278-4422. I’ll bet reservations will be at a premium once word gets out about what a great family show this is. Remember when you phone to tell ’em Marsha sent you.