Before telling you what I thought of “A Christmas Story: The Musical,” I must first be completely transparent and admit that the annual viewing of the 1983 movie classic is almost as revered–and nonnegotiable–a family tradition as opening presents on Christmas morning, not Christmas Eve.
And … I own a leg lamp.
Having said that, you now know why I approached with some trepidation the chance to see the new musical about Ralphie, the boy whose most fervent Christmas wish was for a Red Ryder BB Gun, despite all of the concerns he would shoot his eye out. As we headed to the Chicago Theater for the local premier of the show, my best pal Susy and I said it would either be really great or really horrible.
Lucky for us, it was really great.
Christmas Story Moments You Love
The story line touched on all the funny bits movie fans crave–the Bumpuses’ dogs, Flick’s triple dog dare, the bullies Scut Farkas and his toady Dill, Randy’s retreat to his haven under the sink, the Chinese turkey dinner and Ralphie’s fantasies of saving everyone with his trusted sidekick, Old Blue. And then it added so much more.
There is the lovely song from Ralphie’s mother, played perfectly by Rachel Bay Jones, about what a mom does, and another (after Ralphie’s fight with Farkas) that left me teary-eyed at the realization that so many moments of family life are so fleeting.
I warmed to The Old Man (who, shockingly, has a first name. It’s Frank) toward the end of the first act and couldn’t resist his joy at winning the Major Award. The dance number with the leg lamps is hysterically over the top. (Think the can-can with leg lamps. ‘Nuff said.)
Ralphie (played impressively by Clarke Hallum), the other schoolchildren, Jean Shepherd and the sound effects guy (Gene Weygandt and Nick Gaswirth, respectively) all did their parts proud. And the Higbee’s Santa is just about the creepiest Santa since Billy Bob Thornton.
In short, the songs, the dance, the story line, the acting… it all adds up to the perfect live version of the movie classic. And, if you are so inclined, you can buy a leg lamp on your way out. Just $145 at the concession stand. Really.
Note to Ticket Buyers
If you’re planning to attend the show at the Chicago Theater through Dec. 30: Don’t buy the main floor seats on the far left and far right. The play is set up as a radio play and the desks that serve as the stations for Weygandt and Gaswirth are situated at front edges of the stage, frustratingly blocking a third of the action from those us sitting at the far sides of the main floor.