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Review Roundup: A CHRISTMAS STORY

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On Wednesday, December 14, A Christmas Story, The Musical! celebrated its opening night at Chicago's legendary Chicago Theatre.America's #1 Christmas movie comes to life on stage as hilarious holiday musical featuring a bright holiday score by composer/lyricist team Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and a book by Joseph Robinette based on the writings of radio humorist Jean Shepherd and the 1983 holiday film favorite. Tony Award winner John Rando (Urinetown, The Wedding Singer) will direct the production with Warren Carlyle (Finian's Rainbow, Follies, An Evening With Hugh Jackman) choreographing.

Prior to Chicago, the five-city National Tour launched in Hershey November 8th before engagements in Detroit, MI (Fisher Theatre, Nov. 15 - 27); Raleigh, NC (Memorial Auditorium, Nov. 29 - Dec. 4); and Tampa, FL, (Straz Center, Dec. 6 - Dec. 11).

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribue: In terms of production values, this is a Broadway-caliber show, on the modest end. The cast is both experienced and stellar: Karen Mason, no less, is in the acting ensemble, playing the schoolteacher. The visual watchword was clearly to paint a picture of Ralphie's (and Shepherd's) point of view, and thus Walt Spangler's far-from-predictable set is like a snowy dreamscape with a modest home perched inside and other shadows coming and going. The framing device is Shepherd doing one of his radio broadcasts, replete with a foley artist whose effects melt very nicely into the memories and who, with a few barks, also takes care of the need for the turkey-stealing dogs from the hillbilly house next door.

Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times: This altogether beguiling slice of high-spirited Americana, now on stage at the Chicago Theatre, is the newest (and in many ways the most enchanting) of all the current entries in grand-scale holiday entertainments. Joseph Robinette’s laugh-filled book, and the exuberant, endlessly clever score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are in perfect synch with the show’s source — the quasi-autobiographical stories by radio humorist Jean Shepherd that also were the source of the popular 1983 film. Director John Rando’s fast-paced direction, and Warren Carlyle’s wildly ingenious choreography, bring a whole new giddiness to the proceedings.

Amy L. Hayden, Time Out Chicago: Fans of the 1983 holiday movie, and they are legion, will find a faithful musical adaptation that adheres to the well-known plot—no big surprise, given that Peter Billingsley, the original Ralphie, produced this version. As before, the story centers around a bespectacled 9-year-old (Clarke Hallum) whose Christmas wish is to receive a Red Ryder Action Air Rifle BB Gun. If you’ve seen the film, you know how things end; if you haven’t, well, let’s just say that many tribulations can affect a young boy’s heart when he’s in love with a BB gun, the most famous of which is a prediction: “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” Even Santa joins in the admonition, dashing Ralphie’s December hopes like only Kris Kringle could.

Janet Arvia, Examiner: Although the play runs a tad long, the songs—composed by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, with book by Joseph Robinette—successfully move the story forward and, for the most part, are catchy enough to hum after the show. The mother’s “Just Like That” is surprisingly moving and proves an adaptation can enhance the original work. On the flip side, Ralphie’s "Counting Down to Christmas" seems out of place since it sounds way too much like Rent’s “Only Seasons of Love.”

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