BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL at Des Moines Playhouse: A Tale of Two Christmas Stories Part 2

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BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL at Des Moines Playhouse: A Tale of Two Christmas Stories Part 2
Brett Spahr as The Old Man
Ryan Henzi as Ralphie
Jackie Schmillen as Mother
Shea Beilgard as Randy
Photo by Steve Gibbons

What do you get when you cross a classic holiday movie with the Oscar, Tony, and Grammy award-winning team of Pasek and Paul? You get "A Christmas Story: The Musical" playing as this year's holiday classic at Des Moines Playhouse. While this may be the second version of "A Christmas Story" opening this weekend, this review will not be a comparison of the two.

This version of the show is narrated by Jean Shepherd, who wrote the original story the movie was based on. The way he describes the story is telling a story from his childhood but in a way that it could be anyone. I liked this twist on the narrative because I felt it took the story to a new level. By having him narrate an everyman story, It allowed the fantasy sequences and songs to feel more natural with the story, such as giant leg lamps dancing and a roaring 20's tap number.

The technical elements make this show come to life. Nicolas Amundon's set designs are beautifully detailed yet mobile. Seeing how easily they were able to transition from scene to scene was thrilling. Angela Lampe does a great job of setting the period of the show with her costumes but excelled in setting the fantastical elements of the show. Some of my favorite costumes are the people dressed as leg lamps during a major award and the flapper outfits during the Miss Shields fantasy in Act 2.

BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL at Des Moines Playhouse: A Tale of Two Christmas Stories Part 2
Ryan Henzi as Ralphie
Jackie Schmillen as Mother
Shea Beilgard as Randy
Photo by Steve Gibbons

Part of the fun of watching this show is the talented team behind the scenes that put this show together. Maxwell Schaeffer is known for being a storyteller, and this is present throughout the show in how he incorporates the narrator into each scene. Brenton Brown once again shows his talents as the music director. He does a fantastic job weaving a tapestry of sound. From the quaint mixing of the four family members singing, to the full sound of the ensemble, each adds to Schaeffer's storytelling. The final piece of the directing team is Megan Helmer's choreography. She has become well known for her exciting choreography, and this show is no different. The production numbers are fun to watch, and each had its own flair.

While the show has a fantastic directing team, and beautiful visuals, it wouldn't be successful without a tremendous cast to support it. The ensemble for "A Christmas Story" does a tremendous job from vocals, to bringing each of the characters to life. The joy the ensemble brings is what makes this show the perfect fit for the holiday season. With a cast of 28, it isn't possible to write about every performer. So I have picked out a few of the roles that toped this fantastic show off for me.

The first is Stephanie Schneider In the role of Miss Shields. Her high energy portrayal is the perfect fit for this character. Whenever she came onstage either for a fantasy sequence or an actual scene in the show, I knew we were in for a treat. Her energy made the show-stopping "You'll Shoot You're Eye Out" one of my favorite numbers of the night.

Another set of performances that stood out to me were Ralphie's parents played by Brett Spahr and Jackie Schmillen. They play off of each other so well, which allows for some great comedy. One of my favorite moments of theirs was during the "Genius of Cleveland Street" as he is filling out the crossword puzzle, and she pulls different things out from around the house to give him clues to the answers. The timing was perfect and brought some huge laughs.

Another set of performances that stood out to me were Ralphie's parents played by Brett Spahr and Jackie Schmillen. They play off of each other so well, which allows for some great comedy. One of my favorite moments of theirs was during the "Genius of Cleveland Street" as he is filling out the crossword puzzle, and she pulls different things out from around the house to give him clues to the answers. The timing was perfect and brought some huge laughs.

Adam Beilgard does a fantastic job as the narrator, Jean Shepherd. He takes the idea of telling an everyman's "A Christmas Story" to heart, while also sharing his version of the story. This nuance gave the show the heart it needed. The thoughtful moments he gave leave you thinking that Ralphie's story could be his.

Ryan Henzi delivers infectious energy with his portrayal of Ralphie. His performance pulls you into this story and keeps you engaged throughout the show. He takes the audience through the excitement of deciding on the best Christmas present, to the disappointment of his messing up his chances, to the joy of receiving that gift.

If you are looking for a show that will warm your heart this holiday season, head on to Des Moines Playhouse for "A Christmas Story: The Musical." The show continues through December 23. To find out more about the show, or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.dmplayhouse.com/events/a-christmas-story-the-musical

BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL at Des Moines Playhouse: A Tale of Two Christmas Stories Part 2
Shea Beilgard as Randy
Brett Spahr as The Old Man
Jackie Schmillen as Mother
Ryan Henzi as Ralphie
Photo by Steve Gibbons

Review written by DC Felton
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