On Stage: A Christmas Story, The Musical

I suppose many people have a favorite Christmas movie. That film they try to watch every December when the holiday rolls around.

I used to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” for a few years until I got tired of it. I’ll usually stop for “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” when I’m channel surfing.

One Christmas movie I’ve never sat through is “A Christmas Story.” It’s not that I haven’t had the chance. TBS has been known to run it on a 24-hour loop on Christmas Day. The 1983 family-friendly comedy about a young boy who dreams of a BB-gun under the Christmas tree just never held much appeal to me.

Colton Maurer and the company of "A Christmas Story."

Colton Maurer and the company of “A Christmas Story.”

Now the popular show, based on the writings of Jean Shepherd, has been set to music and taken to the stage. It’s now playing at the Fox Theatre.

Chris Carsten stars as Shepherd, who serves as narrator as he tells a story from his childhood to his radio audience. It’s the 1940s in a small town in Indiana and a young boy named Ralphie (played by Evan Gray and Coulton Maurer on alternating performances) just wants one thing for Christmas: a Red Ryder BB gun.

His mother (Susannah Jones), teacher (Avital Asuleen) and even Santa (Andrew Berlin) argue against it, for fear he’ll “shoot his eye out.” The Old Man (Christopher Swan) is more concerned about proving his worth by winning a contest to care about Ralphie’s wishes.

“A Christmas Story, The Musical” is a cute, fun show that’s dripping with nostalgic Americana wrapped in holiday ribbon. The kids deal with bullies and double-dog dares; dad’s usually not home but he’s always there to fix the furnace or a flat tire; mom holds it all together. It was a time when a child would fear for his life if dad caught his cursing or fighting. Almost a different world.

I took along a friend who is a big fan of the movie and she assured me it followed along pretty faithfully (She also said she loved it and thought it was hilarious). I’d seen enough clips of the film to know what to expect. Every major scene was turned into a musical number — even the infamous leg lamp gets in the act (as you might expect, it involves a chorus-line kick step).

The musical highlight of the show was the “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out” number featuring Asuleen and a number of talented tap-dancing kids.

“A Christmas Story” is a sweet, sentimental tale with a number of laughs. The songs aren’t particularly memorable but the cast and orchestra deliver them with heart. The sets and costumes are perfect for the time and place of the show. It’s a solid holiday entertainment.

“A Christmas Story, The Musical” runs through Jan. 4 at the Fox Theatre. http://www.fabulousfox.com/


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