A Christmas Story: The Musical is based on Jean Shepherd’s semi-autobiographical reminiscences of his childhood which also was a 1983 film that after little success grew into a cultural phenomenon.
Like the movie, the musical is set in Indiana in 1940, taking us back to a simpler time, when everyone had dinner together, “Little Orphan Annie” was on the radio and when a boy’s ardent desire for a BB gun consumed his every thought even if everyone thought he would shoot his eye out.
Dan Lauria, the former dad of the television series “The Wonder Years” narrates the story in flashbacks as the adult Ralphie. He tells about his childhood dream of getting a Red Ryder Carbine Action BB gun for Christmas. He tells us how he worked every angle imaginable to secure his dream present. He writes a school essay, he leaves hints to his parents, and he tells the big guy, Santa Claus.
Included in this stage version are some of the favorite movie moments, Ralphie clad in pink bunny pajamas, and his pal Flick’s tongue stuck to a metal pole. Also many of the warnings he receives whenever he asks for a BB gun for Christmas: “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
Jake Lucas takes on the giant task of the evening’s work as Ralphie, and he definitely captures the excitement, frustrations, and hopes of a boy wanting only one thing – A Red Ryder Carbine Action BB gun.
John Bolton has a gleeful energy as Ralphie’s father (called the Old Man) who is constantly battling the smoking furnace with spouts of unintelligible profanities, and Erin Dilly is sweet-natured as Ralphie’s mother. My favorite cast member was Caroline O’Connor as Ralphie’s teacher. She also had the best singing voice of the ensemble. The cast of kids are all talented and do a great job.
And we can’t forget the Bumpus hounds. They are here too! They’re real dogs (Petee & Lily). Many bursts of excitement are blurted as they come bounding across the stage.
There are some pretty remarkable dance numbers that showcase the adult dancers and more stunningly the tap dancing capabilities of the children especially Luke Spring who taps up a storm alongside O’Connor. The two musical moments for me were ”A Major Award” and ”Ralphie to the Rescue!”
Overall, A Christmas Story is cute, wholesome, and sentimental. It has all the ingredients needed for the perfect holiday show.
A Christmas Story: The Musical is now playing at the Citi Wang Theatre through December 8th. For ticket information visit www.citicenter.org
Run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes long including one intermission