Review: A CHRISTMAS STORY Lights Up Dutch Apple for Christmas

By: Dec. 01, 2015
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There are certain shows that are Christmas classics. They're on TV every year, and we all grab afghans (or Snuggies), hot cocoa, and the pets, along with a box of tissues if necessary - MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, WHITE CHRISTMAS. Not so many newer ones - the film version of HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS sends everyone back to the Dr. Seuss/Boris Karloff television classic in droves. But there's one modern Christmas film that's every bit as popular as some of the early classics: A CHRISTMAS STORY. Author Jean Shepherd's tale of life during the Depression in the Midwest, and a boy's longing for the toy of the year, a Red Ryder carbine BB gun, is beloved to the point that the Cleveland house used in the filming has been opened as a museum of the film, complete with net-stockinged leg lamp in the window. (A nearby Chinese restaurant is its official restaurant, cashing in on the Christmas dinner scene.)

Classic Christmas movies have a way of becoming stage Christmas musicals, and A CHRISTMAS STORY is no exception. The major difference between it and some of the other movie-based Christmas musicals is that A CHRISTMAS STORY is that A CHRISTMAS STORY is a lot more fun. Dean Sobon directs it currently at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, and what comes off, between Joseph Robinette's book and Benj Pasek's and Justin Paul's music and lyrics, with the help of Sobon and his cast, is a show that's actually a bit more lighthearted than the original movie, in which "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out" is less threat of harm than night-club dance ensemble. For those who love gritty Midwestern sentiment, that's missing here - but for those who prefer their Christmas comic, this is a somewhat more charming version than the original movie.

Joshua Lehman plays Jean Shepherd, author of the original tale and narrator of the musical, who is also the adult Ralphie, he who longed for the perfect BB gun. Craig Smith is Ralphie's father, "the old man," he who solved crossword puzzles in search of fortune, fame, and really tacky lamps, while Mother is played by Benton Sheely; both handle their parts well, down to the conflicts over the lamp and the turkey.

Shannon Connolly plays teacher Miss Shields, whose role becomes greater in the musical for the musical scenes she leads, of which the aforementioned "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out" is classic. Other fun numbers in the show include "Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun," a musical ode to the greatest toy ever, and "Ralphie to the Rescue," a hilarious tribute to Ralphie's explanation of why he needs his Red Ryder. But also fasten your seatbelts for "A Major Award," in which Smith and Sheely celebrate "the old man's" achievement in crossword puzzle history - the very thing leading to the infamous leg lamp. The ensemble dances and sings its heart out with the largest collection of leg lamps of various shapes and sizes ever seen on stage assisting them.

The film may be darker and more realistic, but this is an extravaganza, from dancing leg lamps to waving BB guns to classroom ensembles of kids singing about essay assignments and bullies. It's comic, it's fun, and like any Christmas spectacular, it's just that little bit over the top. The plot is faithful to the film, but the music and effects, including both adult and children's choreography by Samantha Hewes Cramer, are faithful to the idea of holiday magic. It's not the original film, but it's a different kind of holiday treat, one that's as sweet, yet as tart, as a giant peppermint stick.

John P. White's costuming is as spot-on as ever, and the sets, designed by Evan Adamson, are equally a delight. If only that leg lamp weren't front and center in the Parker window - but then, it's a major award, after all.

A CHRISTMAS STORY sings and dances its way into Christmas and beyond at Dutch Apple, closing New Year's Eve. If this is your Christmas movie, then this is your show - just bigger, glitzier, and yet more Christmaslike (and not quite so down to earth). For tickets, information, and a glimpse of that Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun, call 717-898-1900 or visit

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