|ERIN DILLY, ZAC BALLARD, JOHN BOLTON and JOHNNY RABE |
in A CHRISTMAS STORY, THE MUSICAL. photo credit: (c) 2012 Carol Rosegg
By Lauren Yarger
Every Christmas Broadway tries its best to find a show that will attract the millions of people visiting New York for the holiday. With the exception of the perennial A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden (no longer running) nicely staged Off-Broadway at Madison Square Garden, if flawed in its adaptation some years back, there hasn't been one that really grabbed me beyond being a tolerably nice show to bring the kids to enjoy.
This year we have a return of Elf and Annie just in time for the season, but we also have a unique offering: a musical that warms the heart, offers a wholesome Christmas story and makes us wish it could play all year long instead of just around the holidays. It's A Christmas Story, the Musical, a lavishly decorated and choreographed send-up of Jean Shepherd's popular film in which 9-year-old Ralphie dreams of getting a BB gun for Christmas.
|Dan Lauria. Photo: 2012 Carol Rosegg|
Ralphie (Johnny Rabe or Joe West at certain performances) tries to drop hints so that his mother (a beautifully voiced Erin Dilly) or his "Old Man" (John Bolton) might stop in the midst of worrying about the broken furnace or trying to get his little brother Randy (Zac Ballard) to eat to notice what Ralphie hopes to find under the tree on Christmas morning. He writes an essay about it hoping his teacher, Miss Shields (Caroline O'Connor) will be so struck by the brilliance of his argument for needing a BB gun, that she will help him overcome what seems to be everyone's objection: "You'll shoot your eye out."
Ralphie's hopes are dashed, however, when everyone's attention shifts to the hideous leg lamp his father wins in a crossword-puzzle-solving contest. Bolton is a hoot as the leg-lamp worshipping man and Carlyle comes up with a Busby Berkeley-inspired kick line number to send it over the top. The balance is just right between extremes like silly elves with a less-than-jolly department store Santa and a heartfelt, loving apology between Ralphie's parents following an argument.
The catchy and memorable songs -- 16 in all -- also strike the proper balance between making us laugh and moving us to tears. Different styles link familiar themes and we never feel as though someone has crammed a score down the throat of someone telling a favorite Christmas story (like the awfully staged musical version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, for example). This musical is an entity of its own while incorporating all we love about the movie. It's a holiday event of its own which deserves perennial holiday production until we have seen it as many times as the movie, which usually runs in a 24-hour marathon on TBS beginning Christmas eve (though listings for this year could not be verified).
Adding to the atmosphere are Elizabeth Hope Clancy's wide-ranging costumes (there's a fantasy number "Ralphie to the Rescue," for example, where Ralphie imagines himself a hero in the Old West where his BB gun keeps bandits at bay.) Turning in some standout performances in the large ensemble are John Babbo as the waiter at a Chinese restaurant, Jeremy Schinder and J.D. Rodriguez as bullies Flick and Schwartz, Pete and Lily (two pooches who play the neighbor's dogs trained by William Berloni, who has another client starring over at Annie....) and tap dance sensation Luke Spring who brought down the house.
Lots of fun, wholesome (the bad language even is masked or funny) and a nice trip down memory lane. I double-dog dare you to see it at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 West 46th St., NYC where it runs through Dec. 30. Tickets: 800-745-3000, 877-250-2929; http://achristmasstorythemusical.com/tickets.
More interesting information:
Full disclosure -- one of the producers of A Christmas Story is Pat Addiss, who is a personal friend. She knows I won't change my review in any way just because I like her -- there are a couple of less-than-enthusiastic writeups I have done for other shows she has produced to prove it -- but you should know that you'll always get the truth here, dear readers. Another producer on the show is Peter Billingsley, who plays Ralphie in the movie.
Performance times vary week to week.
November 26 – December 2: Mon.11/26 – DARK; Tues. 11/27 – 7PM; Wed. 11/28 – 7PM; Thurs. 11/29 – 7PM; Fri. 11/30 – 8PM; Sat. 12/1– 2PM & 8PM; Sun. 12/2 – 2PM & 7:30PM
December 3 – 9: Mon. 12/3 – DARK; Tues. 12/4- 7PM; Wed. 12/5 – 2PM & 8PM; Thurs. 12/6 – 7PM; Fri. 12/7 – 8PM; Sat. 12/8 – 2PM & 8PM; Sun. 12/9 – 2PM
December 10 – 16: Mon. 12/10 – DARK; Tues. 12/11- 7PM; Wed. 12/12 – 2PM & 8PM; Thurs. 12/13 – 7PM; Fri. 12/14 – 8PM; Sat. 12/15 – 2PM & 8PM; Sun. 12/16– 2PM & 7:30PM
December 17 – 23: Mon. 12/17 – DARK; Tues. 12/18- 7PM; Wed. 12/19 – 2PM & 8PM; Thurs. 12/20 – 7PM; Fri. 12/21 – 8PM; Sat. 12/22 – 2PM & 8PM; Sun. 12/23– 2PM & 7:30PM
December 24 – 30: Mon. 12/24 – 3PM (Christmas Eve); Tues. 12/25- DARK (Christmas); Wed. 12/26 – 2PM & 8PM; Thurs. 12/27 – 7PM; Fri. 12/28 – 8PM; Sat. 12/29 – 2PM & 8PM; Sun. 12/30– 2PM
Young Writer's Contest: I, now on Broadway this holiday season, has partnered with STOMP Out Bullying to launch an Anti-Bullying Story Competition. Young writers in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades can submit stories about bullying. In five pages or less, tell a story about how bullying has affected your life, about a bullying incident you might have witnessed, or about your own strategies for avoiding bullies at school or in your neighborhood. Every story should include at least one idea, ONE ACTION, that you believe other kids, your school administrators, or your community could initiate to limit or prevent bullying in the future. The competition is open to students inside the Tri-State Area, within 100 miles radius to Broadway.
One winner of the First Place prize will receive two tickets and a walk-on role in the 2012 Broadway production of A Christmas Story, The Musical, plus the Original Cast Album, Backstage Tour and an Award Certificate. Second and Third Place price recipients (1 winner in each category) will receive 2 tickets to A Christmas Story, The Musical, plus the Original Cast Album, Backstage Tour and an Award Certificate. Finally, 10 lucky Runners-Up will also receive the Original Cast Album and Award Certificates.
All entries must be sent via email on or before Dec. 8, 2012 to ANTIBULLYINGETNRY@GMAIL.COM.
Christians might also like to know:
-- Lord's name taken in vain