Youth Gives A Christmas Story : The Musical, A Leg Up

The youthful cast of Align Entertainment’s A Christmas Story: The Musical.
photo: Robert Sondergaard

Align Entertainment kicks off the Holiday theatre season with A Christmas Story : The Musical.  The joyful musical is based on the film version of Jean Shepard’s semi-autobiographical anecdotal book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash. The 1983 holiday classic comes to life with book by Joseph Robinette and music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the award-winning songwriting duo behind La La Land, Dear Evan Hansen and The Greatest Showman.

Set in the 1940s, A Christmas Story: The Musical opens on Jean Shepard’s Manhattan radio show, and takes us back to his youth and recollections of Ralphie Parker’s burning desire to find a ‘Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 Shot Range Model BB Gun with a compass in the stock and a thing that tells time’ under the Christmas tree. Along the way we meet the the Parker family; younger brother Randy, Mother and “the Old Man”, and Ralphie’s school friends and foes.

From left: Georgiy Rhatushnyak (Randy), Stef Stanley (Mother), Owen Scott (Ralphie), and Brennan Cuff (The Old Man).
photo: Robert Sondergaard

The musical brings all the familiar scenes from the film version to life; snowsuits,  Scut Farkus the school bully, Flick sticking his tongue to flag pole, The Old Man’s ‘major award’ – the famed leg lamp, Ralphie’s pink bunny suit, a tastefully updated Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant and of course, the visit to Santa to ask for the Red Ryder BB Gun.

While Trent Glukler as Jean Shepard, Brennan Cuff as The Old Man, Stefanie Stanley as Mother and Amanda Russell as teacher, Mrs Shields anchor the show with their solid vocals and characterizations of the ‘grown ups’, it’s the younger actors who steal A Christmas Story.  Lead by a charming Owen Scott as Ralphie, Georgiy Rhatushnyak as Randy, the company is filled with many more young actors, allowing co-producer/director Chad Matchette to create a tight, energetic, fun show.

Owen Scott (Ralphie) on table left and Georgiy Rhatushnyak (Randy) on table right.
photo: Robert Sondergaard

In this production, the ability to have up to 30 actors on the Michael J Fox stage, allows choreographer Melissa Turpin to create some fun Busby Berkeley-esque song and dance numbers.  Unfortunately, I feel that some of the fantasy pieces could be reduced or cut altogether, to trim the 2.5 hour run time.  While long, the youth save the day, their energy and joy at being part of A Christmas Story, invigorate the audience.  You can’t help but smile at the wide-eyed innocence portrayed by Owen in his lines and lyrics, bringing to mind the iconic film portrayal by Peter Billingsley, but making the role his own.

The detailed set by Conor Moore and great period costumes, by Maureen Robertson complete the picture and take us back to the 1940s. Having a live orchestra, under director James Bryson, ads extra depth to the performances and fills the theatre with the catchy tunes of Pasek & Paul like; It All Comes Down To Christmas, Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun, Ralphie To The Rescue, and wrapping it all up with A Christmas Story, to send the audience home with a song in their heart and Christmas on the mind.

Align Entertainment’s A Christmas Story : The Musical plays at Michael J Fox Theatre until November 17, 2018. Find tickets and showtimes at alignentertainent.ca 

It’s time for A Christmas Story

As the Halloween season wraps, the calendar flips to bring on the next holiday season. To start Festive season Align Entertainment presents the holiday classic A Christmas Story: The Musical to the Michael J. Fox Theatre stage in Burnaby, opening November 2nd. 

Owen Scott as Ralphie
pic: Emily Cooper

The multi-Ovation Award-winning producers at Align have assembled a talented cast of local stars and young up-and-comers for the heartfelt Broadway adaptation of Jean Shepherd and Bob Clark’s beloved 1983 film. As in the film, A Christmas Story: The Musical follows 9-year-old Ralphie Parker, who wants nothing more for Christmas than an official Red Ryder Carbine Action BB gun.

The musical is set to an score by the Tony, Oscar, & Grammy award-winning duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dear Evan HansenLa La Land and The Greatest Showman).  The musical adaptation, updated for the stage, contains fresh surprises for fans of the film, while continuing to revisit its iconic scenes, including trips to Higbee’s downtown window displays, shopping for Christmas trees, and life lessons learned along the way (and, naturally, the leg lamp).

A Christmas Story is a quirky holiday classic about a wholesome family founded on unconditional love,” says director and co-producer Chad Matchette. “Generations have been drawn to the young protagonist, Ralphie, who is at the crux of childhood. His innocence and persistence remind us of a quieter and perhaps less-complicated era. It’s no surprise that this iconic tale was adapted into a musical. Through its utterly timeless score and evergreen optimistic message, our astonishing cast of triple-threat talents will set the stage with a festive reminder of the magic found in pursuing our dreams — big or small.”

Clockwise from bottom left: Georgiy Rhatushnyak (Randy), Stefanie Stanley
(Mother), Brennan Cuff (The Old Man), Owen Scott (Ralphie)
pic: Emily Cooper

The musical comedy premiered on Broadway in 2012, receiving three Tony Award nominations. The work’s enchanting songs include: “It All Comes Down to Christmas,” “Ralphie to the Rescue!” and the energetic “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!”  From upbeat jazzy numbers to poignant ballads, the score is carried by a diverse company of Vancouver’s brightest local talent, ranging in age from 9 to 55, accompanied by a live 12-piece orchestra. 

A Christmas Story: The Musical runs November 2 – 17, 2018 at the Michael J. Fox Theatre, 7373 Macpherson Ave, Burnaby.  Tickets for Align Entertainment’s 2018/2019 Season, including A Christmas Story: The Musical, plus Annie (February 1-16, 2019) are available online at alignentertainment.ca

Now Playing – A Christmas Story : The Musical

a-christmas-story-the-musicalA holiday favourite, A Christmas Story, comes to life on stage in new musical version by The Arts Club Theatre Company.   The Tony award nominated A Christmas Story : The Musical brings the nostalgia of the classic 1983 film, in turn based on Jean Sheperd’s book “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash”, to stage with new music by Pasek & Paul and book by Joseph Robinette.

The old adage in entertainment is to not work with children and animals. A Christmas Story : The Musical takes neither of those to heart, with a cast of 9 very capable children lead by Valin Shinyei as “Ralphie”, who carries the bulk of the play’s musical numbers in his quest for an Official Red Ryder carbine-action BB gun.  Glen Gordon is perfect as younger brother “Randy” bringing to life some of the great comedic moments of the film.  Coincidentally, Shinyei portrayed “Randy” in the 2012 film sequel.  Parents; “Mother” Meghan Gardiner and especially, Matt Palmer as “the Old Man” add the familial charm to the show. “Narrator” Duff MacDonald fills in the gaps as he moves the story through the lead up to this 1940’s Christmas Day.

While A Christmas Story : The Musical captures all the main plot points of the original work, it’s 2.5 hour (including intermission) feels slightly excessive for a family show.  The original script for the musical called for massive 20 children,  but director/choreographer Valerie Easton paired the cast to 9 children for this smaller scale production.  Both acts could have also benefitted from a scaling down, feeling like a song or two longer than necessary.

Overall, whether you’ve seen the original film or not, A Christmas Story : The Musical is a great show for the whole family to enjoy this holiday season.

The Arts Club Theatre Company’s A Christmas Story : The Musical is now playing at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage with 8 shows weekly until December 27th (dark Mondays)