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 

Legally Blonde brings Elle Woods to Michael J Fox Theatre

Oh My Gawd, You Guys! Align Entertainment is bringing the award winning Legally Blonde the Musical to Michael J Fox Theatre in Burnaby, February 2 – 17, 2018.

Elle & Warner
photo: Anita Alberto Photography

Perfectly coordinated for Valentine’s Day, pretty in pink Elle Woods and her dog Bruiser show you can’t judge a book by its cover, then she gets ‘serious’ and chases ex-beau Warner from the Hollywood Hills to Harvard Law School.

“Legally Blonde reminds us that you don’t have to be pigeon-holed to one persona – you can be the sorority queen and a whip-smart whiz if you want, and win at both life and love,” says director and co-producer Chad Matchette. “The show has a great message, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously and fun is what we at Align Entertainment are all about! We love to present big, bright and boisterous productions where it doesn’t matter if you’re performing on stage or seated in the audience, everyone is having a blast. Take family, friends or that special someone – we promise exceptional entertainment and a smashing time at the theatre!”

Molly Spinola as Bruise Woods

Based on the 2001 Reese Witherspoon comedy, Legally Blonde the Musical was adapted for the stage by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin (music & lyrics) with Heather Hach (book).  The second show in their 2017-18 season, following last autumn’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Align Entertainment continues their success of bringing together local theatre veteran and up-and-coming talents plus in this case of Legally Blonde, two four-legged friends, make their stage debuts in this production. Metro Vancouver pooches, Molly Spinola is playing Bruiser Woods while Seamus O’Kelly plays Rufus .

Legally Blonde the Musical, runs February 2 – 17, at Michael J Fox Theatre, 7373 Macpherson Ave Burnaby.  For showtimes and tickets visit alignentertainment.ca

Disney’s The Little Mermaid at Michael J Fox Theatre

There’s five more chances to see Disney’s The Little Mermaid, presented by Align Entertainment.  The Disney classic comes to life onstage at Burnaby’s Michael J Fox Theatre until February 18th.

The beloved story as interpreted by Doug Wright, and the classic soundtrack from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, along with new lyrics from Glenn Slater,  keeps the pace lively and the suitable for the whole family.  The Little Mermaid isn’t just for kids, while the young ones will certainly find much to love with their favourite underwater Princess, the young at heart will as well.  The evening audience welcomed a few little princesses but the matinee was apparently filled with excited dressed up young ladies.

Elyse Maloway brings a wide-eyed excitement to Ariel, ably filling the vocal and acting duties.  Prince Eric, played by Colton Fyfe, has the classic Disney Prince good looks and carries the vocals fairly well. The cast fill the undersea and human world nicely but the real stand out in the cast is Julio Fuentes as Sebastian the Crab.  As Sebastian, Fuentes brings the comedy and heart to the ensemble, leading two of the key songs and production numbers in each act; Under The Sea and Kiss The Girl.  As the antagonist Ursula, Erin Matchette, has fun with the role but lacks some of the malevolence in her vocals we’d expect from the Sea Witch.

Visually the set and costumes allow the audience to create the worlds beneath and above the waves. The creative use of heal wheels allow the merfolk and other sea creatures to swim smoothly through the water.  Ms Maloway is thankfully not burdened with the usual unnaturally red wig that distracts from many live action versions of Ariel.  The live orchestra led by Brent Hughes fills the auditorium with rich sound that stays in your head as you The Little Mermaid happily humming the tunes.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid, presented by Align Entertainment plays at Burnaby’s Michael J Fox Theatre until February 18th.