Don Reviews "A Christmas Story: The Musical"
With the Christmas season each year comes my annual viewing of “A Christmas Story” when it does its twenty-four hour marathon on TBS. I have literally lost count of the number of times I have seen it, and it is always completely watchable because of its message and how truly fitting it is to watch it on Christmas day. For the second time, I have now been able to see the musical version as it plays for a few days at the Winspear Opera House.
The story of Ralphie Parker and his family is brought to life with both Michael Norman and Ian Shaw in the role depending on the performance as he journeys towards Christmas day and his wish to get a new BB gun in 1940 Indiana. The main set is the Parker house and is done beautifully. From the kitchen to the living room and the kids’ bedroom, it is all here along with the Christmas decorations to add to the season. Chris Cartsen plays Jean Shepherd, the author of the original story and narrator, and does so very well and his work with the actor playing Ralphie is cool as they match the mannerisms and even some of the ways of speaking.
The actor that we saw in the Ralphie role was the opposite for me. He reminded me more of Squints from “The Sandlot” than my memory of how Peter Billingsley played the character. For me, the character should be more “fluffy,” but what I saw was much more of a toothpick. I would rather have seen Benjamin Barham-Eiese (who played one of his best friends, Flick) in the role than him, who also could have handled the more passive style of who Ralphie is to me than the over-the-top and loud version we got.
This is actually a half-hour longer than the film version (not including the fifteen minute intermission), and it is even stranger to me that there are parts of the film that are not even represented in the stage version, like the “Little Orphan Annie” subplot. I understand that liberties are being taken here, but changing what happens when the leg lamp is broken is one that should have been kept in and even the way The Old Man (played by Paul Norbrega) reacts to Ralphie’s fight with the bully Scut Farkus (Wyatt Oswald). There are other things that it does right, but to leave these things out to add more music was just wrong for me. With “A Christmas Story” being one of my all-time favorite films, by bar was set very high and this did not hit it. Although I will still recommend it, I will only give it the worth of the third balcony seating.