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