BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS STORY at Ankeny Community Theatre: A Tale of Two Christmas Stories Part 1
Opening two productions of a show in one weekend is rare in the Des Moines theatre scene. What makes this weekend special is that two productions based on the classic movie "A Christmas Story" are opening this weekend. In this review, we are going to focus on the play version presented at Ankeny Community Theatre, which opened on December 6. This productions audiences to remember their favorite Christmas memories and reminisce as they watch this production.
This version of Christmas story has an older version of Ralphie who narrates his memory of the Christmas he wanted to get a Red Ryder BB carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle. It allows us to remember by using everyone's favorite scenes from the movie while taking some liberties and adding to the story. Some of those liberties are between old and young Ralphie, as well as additional fantasy sequences.
One of the first thing in noticed coming into the theatre was the set that has leg lamp silhouettes that go across the entire stage. These silhouettes played into the idea of reminiscing. The set was stationary, with a few areas where additional pieces were brought off and on. The most creative was their use of the full space, including a tree farm in front of the proscenium. They also used one of the poles in the seating area for the famous scene where Flick sticks his tongue to the pole.
Director Cheryl Clark's vision for the audience to reminisce on memories is seen in her casting for the show. By casting an older, experienced actor in the role of Ralph and a green new actor in the part of Ralphie, she was able to tell the story from two points view. That of someone looking back on their childhood, as well as a child experiencing things for the first time. It made for a special evening of theatre that will stick with me.
The cast of eleven featured four adults. Ralph, played by Al Price, narrates the story in a way you would expect to see a grandparent sitting their grandkids around the fire to tell them a story. Alexis Beyer and Troy Gould, mother and father, tap into the kind but sometimes flawed family members that we all have. Their timing brought many laughs to the evening. This was seen in the scenes featuring the leg lamp. Corinn Brush does a great job taking on a younger version of Ralphie's teacher Miss Shields. By playing a younger version, it gave a layer to understand why Ralphie wanted her approval of his Christmas paper.
The kids in this production, many making their Ankeny Community Theatre debuts, bring this show to life. Each time the kids came on stage, there was a burst of energy. Some of my favorite moments came in how they reacted to what was happening on stage. One of my favorite reactions was the look on Schwartz's face when Flick got his tongue stuck on the pole. The look by Schwartz, played by Grant Guiter, said he how funny he thought it was, but also had a sense of surprise that it worked. The children's cast also featured David Tillinghast as Ralphie's friend as Schwartz, Sadie Tillinghast as the beyond her age smart Helen Weathers, Eleanor Lawler as the adorable Esther Jane Alberry, Will Harms as bully Scut Farcus, and Blake Sauer as Ralpie's quiet brother Randy.
Hudson Pulver, who plays the pivotal role of Ralphie, brings the childlike anticipation people have at Christmas time. Every time he talked about the gun, he brought more anticipation for the hopeful gift. You could see how much he enjoyed delivering the lines because they rolled right off of his tongue as though the BB Gun was the most important gift he would ever receive. His high energy fast-paced portrayal of Ralphie was a great foil to Al Price's older Ralph.
As you get ready to reminisce on holidays past, why not take some time and head to Ankeny to revisit this holiday classic, "A Christmas Story." This A+ production is one you won't want to miss. Hurry and get tickets for this production, as they are going fast. Ankeny's production runs through December 15, 2019. To purchase tickets, or find more about this production visit https://www.ankenycommunitytheatre.com/
Review written by DC Felton
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