BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS STORY at Morrison Center
A Christmas Story, based on the popular 1983 movie of the same title, comes to the Morrison Center for a limited engagement as the second show of the 2019-2020 season. Set in Indiana in the 1940s, we see a simpler time, unpolluted by the violent and somewhat fearful ways of the 21st century. The Morrison Center did a fantastic job setting the stage for a beautiful scene of family, friends, and the frenzy that often happens during the Holidays. While waiting to go into the theatre, I noticed children were there with parents and older couples enjoying a date night. There was a happy buzz circulating throughout the theatre; The feeling was contagious and simply put, welcoming. There aren't many musicals that resonate with the feeling of community, this one definitely had it.
Being an amalgamation of two books by humorist Jean Shepherd the 1966 book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash and the 1971 book Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories. The musical had its Broadway premiere in 2012 and was nominated for three Tony Awards including Best New Musical. The musical was described as Breathtaking and a Family Favorite. Two phrases with which I can definitely agree.
To those who are new to the story, like I was going in. A Christmas story is a narrative piece about a nine-year-old boy named Ralphie. The only thing on Ralphie's Christmas list that year was a Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot, Range Model Air Rifle. In a few words, the musical was whimsical, warm-hearted, festive and fun. It truly was the perfect start to the holiday season. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, whose musical writing talents you might recognize from The Greatest Showman, and Dear Evan Hansen did a wonderful job sticking to the material given whilst keeping it fresh and fun. Ralphie to the Rescue takes us in his mind, showing us his thoughts and hopes. The music did a wonderful job setting the scene. The show had simple sets, but each one had hidden features. There were staples from the 1940s for audiences to enjoy, for example, some of the toys on some of the character's Christmas wishlists. Some wanted jacks, others wanted blocks. Other children wanted toys like Ralphie, the red rifle being at the top of lists for most of the '40s. Another example is by how the story is introduced, with a radio show, Chris Carsten who portrays Jean Shepherd in the show does excellent job storytelling. We see him reflecting on all the events taking place during that Holiday season. Moving on, the choreography by Warren Carlyle and Jason Sparks was phenomenal. Lisa Zinni and Michael Mcdonald's costumes were incredible. They brought the 1940's to life with different patterns and details. Even the iconic snowsuit worn by Randy is put into the show, detail fans of the film would love to see.
In the leading role of Ralphie, I was able to see Iain Shaw. His voice fits this part perfectly, a strong range of emotions were in place as he sang every single note perfectly and with full control. His acting was incredible. He took command of the stage, it was like the audience couldn't pay attention to anything but him. William Colin, as Randy, demonstrated perfect comedic timing. Colin and Shaw seemingly had the perfect brotherly relationship. Briana Gantsweg as Mother was a match made in heaven. Her care for her husband and kids was where the heart of the show took place. Her voice gave me chills as she sang every single thing perfectly. Chris Swan as The Old Man was humorous and fun. We get to see his ambitions, though different than the ones his son may have are still there. The ensemble was phenomenal and mesmerizing. The dancing, singing and the rest of the things this group of talented people left me speechless. The things the kids could do at their age was insane, and the adults were just as amazing.
This show was the perfect kickstart to the holiday season here in Boise.