Book by Joseph Robinette. Music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Directed by Chad Matchette. An Align Entertainment production. At the Michael J. Fox Theatre on Saturday, November 3. Continues until November 17
A Christmas Story: The Musical will already have closed two whole weeks before you flip your calendar page to December, but if you’re the type for whom the festive season can’t start early enough, this hearty dose of good cheer is for you.
The 2012 musical is based on the 1983 film of the same title. Here, as there, a framing device features an author recalling his childhood in 1940. Nine-year-old Ralphie desperately wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, but all the adults—even Santa—give the same automatic response: “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Meanwhile, Ralphie’s little brother whines a lot, their mother exhibits the patience of a saint, and their father proves to be just as much of a dreamer as his son.
Nostalgia is at the heart of the film, and the songs pleasantly evoke a more innocent time while giving life to the film’s iconic images. “Sticky Situation” sees Ralphie’s classmate get his tongue stuck to a flagpole. “A Major Award” celebrates his father’s unusual contest prize, and features a group of dancing girls dressed as leg lamps.
The entire cast of 32, at least half of them kids, do impressive work under Chad Matchette’s direction. Owen Scott is an excellent Ralphie. He’s an unpretentious actor and a strong singer; just watch the workout he gets in “Ralphie to the Rescue”. Brennan Cuff, as the Old Man (Ralphie’s dad), is terrific: his chronically harried Everyman is rooted in the period, as is his creamy voice. As the adult Ralphie, Trent Glukler is a solid narrator. And Amanda Russell shines as teacher Miss Shields, especially when she lets loose for a big tap number, “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out”.
Musical director Caitlin Hayes and choreographer Melissa Turpin maximize the talents of the huge cast with gorgeous harmonies and lively movement. Conor Moore’s set requires the actors to move big pieces frequently, but these elaborate changes are executed with lightning speed. And props to costume designer Maureen Robertson for outfitting the cast in everything from pyjamas to elf costumes to cancan dresses.
It’s big, it’s colourful, and it’s warm-hearted—an early taste of holiday spirit.