“A Christmas Story: The Musical” came to town on Dec. 10, and it was as magical as the Christmas spirit itself (pink bunny suit and all).
Set in 1940s Indiana, a young, bespectacled Ralphie Parker plans his way toward the holiday gift of his dreams, an official Red Ryder® Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. A few obstacles and many distractions stand between Ralphie and his Christmas wish (we all know ’em, and now there’s stage tunes involved).
From the songwriting team behind the smash hit Tony Award-winning musical “Dear Evan Hansen” and the Academy Award-winning film “La La Land,” “A Christmas Story: The Musical” brings the classic 1983 movie to hilarious life on stage.
The musical begins on Dec. 1 with the big question: What is on Ralphie’s Christmas list? You bet it’s the hottest ticket item of the season, the Red Ryder® Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. The best part about asking Ralphie and his classmates what’s on their Christmas lists is his Kevin-McAllister-like-shocked-face before each announcement under a spotlight.
The Parker family house, on wheels for moving on and off stage, had an exposed roof, yet billows of snow and Christmas lights could be seen around the border. Cut in half so the audience could see inside, it sat almost as if it was the scene of a snow-globe as the circular exterior screen gave that idea. Each ensemble member seemed to have a hand in moving the set around, which enlivened the show. Even the special effects, such as an echoing, dream-like sound effect for some lines, and dancing leg lamps (there’s a can-can line to keep an eye out for), enhanced the musical. Some visiting musicals sometimes have acoustically challenging issues, but the lighting, sound and set/props all seemed organized and effortless.
As musicals should have and encourage, every song had high momentum. The music fit the story 100 percent–some film-inspired musicals insert songs that don’t seem to fit the energy and overall story, but this one did. The songs are all catchy! Three-quarters of the way into “Ralphie to the Rescue,” I was humming along (and the song is probably going to be in my head tomorrow morning, too, oh-oh-oh). The entire cast is excellent, but young Ralphie’s pipes, wow! We’re definitely going to keep seeing him on Broadway, I’m sure.
The choreography for songs such as “When You’re a Wimp” was a bit clumsy, but that’s probably because everyone in this scene is a kid. That was something you don’t see in two many musicals: the cast is half-kids, half-adults. Whether it was a kid-only dance sequence like “When You’re a Wimp” or students and and their teacher tap-dancing together in “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out,” it’s impossible not to tap your feet and emblazon your face with a giant smile (not unlike the one Ralphie gets when he’s asked what’s on his Christmas list).
If the original film had been this musical (or had I seen the musical first), I think I would have liked it more growing up. But maybe that’s the point–add some showtunes, klutzy kid-filled choreography and classic quotable lines, and that feeling of nostalgia reignites. The sequence for “Up on Santa’s Lap,” featuring pajama-clad children including Ralphie and little brother Randy, reminded us of the Christmas spirit we all search for as adults and experienced so vividly as children.
“A Christmas Story: The Musical” is in town through Dec. 15. Showtimes include 7 p.m. Dec 11, 1:30 and 7 p.m. Dec. 12, 8 p.m. Dec. 13, 2 and 8 p.m. Dec. 14, and 2 p.m. Dec. 15. Tickets start at $40 plus fees and can be purchased in-person at the Walton Arts Center Box Office, by calling 479-443-5600 or by visiting the website. Theater-goers can also reserve $7 parking with their tickets.
Before walking into the theater, guests have the opportunity to walk through a simulated department store front-window display between the stairwell and the main lobby, which features all the hottest toy items from 1940 into the midcentury.
And yes, the Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun is a part of that display.
It’s the perfect show for a small town with big-city-spirit, and we have a feeling if you don’t see it, you’ll be saying, “Oh, fudge!” for missing out.