Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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NY1 Theater Review: "A Christmas Story"

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The holiday staple "A Christmas Story" is now a Broadway musical. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

Christmas time in NY offers a cornucopia of theatrical offerings when the fare tends to be awfully sweet and splashy. But audiences are getting a softer sepia toned variation on the theme this year with a musical adaptation of the popular film A Christmas Story. This freshest of evergreens is a treat that could well last long past the happy holidays.

Fans of the film will not be disappointed. The musical captures all of its quirky charms while adding some wonderfully theatrical touches of its own. John Robinette, who wrote the book, clearly "gets" the messy dynamics of the family depicted in the film.

Based on the semi-autobiographical work by humorist Jean Shepherd, nicely played by Dan Lauria as narrator, it's the story of 9-year-old Ralphie growing up in 1940s Indiana. The slice of life tale memorably includes such nutty rites of passage as being dared to stick a tongue on a frozen metal pole and wanting a BB gun for Christmas more than anything in the whole world. Seemingly superficial events but rendered here as life affirming milestones.

The songs by young composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are impressively melodic and hummable, and some, downright inspired. John Rando’s direction blending humor, whimsy and depth, is aided immeasurably by Warren Carlyle’s inventive choreography particularly in the wild fantasy sequences.

The casting is just about perfect. Erin Dilley invests the mother with an embracing warmth. And John Bolton is especially winning as the grumpy expletive-spewing but loving dad. And then there are the kids led by Johnny Rabe as Ralphie who seem so normal except that they’re all so incredibly talented. And check out little Luke Spring doing a tap routine

The movie is special but on stage the added trimmings make A Christmas Story a theatrical gift for all seasons.

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