BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS STORY THE MUSICAL Brings in the Season at the Murat Theatre
This season of festivities feels incomplete without the iconic phrase, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid!" It would seem impossible to improve upon the cinematic genius that brought that phrase into vogue, but A CHRISTMAS STORY THE MUSICAL has proven that wrong. It is currently running at the Murat Theatre as the latest visiting show from Broadway Across America.
I came into this experience very skeptical because "A Christmas Story" has been a part of family tradition for longer than I can remember. How could it be improved upon or changed without losing its original appeal? The musical adaptation has met that challenge easily. The musical features not only every iconic line and scene but also adds a new sense of depth to the family.
Probably one of the best parts of the entire production was the narrator, Jean Shepard, played by Chris Carsten. His boyish good nature and wonderful story-telling persona made you truly feel like you were sitting down for a fireside radio special from decades ago. He guides and moves the plot seamlessly with his quick wit and asides.
I would be remiss if I did not offer hearty congratulations to Tristan Klaphake who played Ralphie. The film is so driven by key close-ups of his expressions and quirky mannerisms, but the musical compensates for that by using the lyrics and music to let Ralphie explore and share his fantastic imagination and hilarious daydreams. Tristan Klaphake did an exceptional job of emoting so that everyone could enjoy his innocent charm.
The lead characters almost always steal the show, but as an audience member, I fell in love with the whole family. Ralphie's kid brother, Randy, played by Evan Christy, was not only adorable but also a wonderful little actor. He even stayed in character while wearing the snowsuit that keeps him from putting his arms down. The mother and father were the perfect balance of sweet and unassuming meets brash and egotistical. Their dichotomy made the family even more believable.
To miss this show would be to miss the chance to see one of your holiday favorites remade again into something new, funny, and heartwarming.
I do have to highlight Paul Nobrega and Sara Budnik, who played Ralphie's parents because they had some incredible on-stage chemistry. Budnik and Nobrega did a wonderful job conveying to the audience the real dynamic of their relationship even though the story, of course, was about Ralphie's Christmas. I especially was blown away by how they characterized their roles in multiple ways, especially through their on-stage expressions and dialogue.
I need to give a huge shout out to the choreography, costumes, and music in this show. These parts of the performance are always done well with Broadway shows, and A CHRISTMAS STORY is no exception. The music was a good mix of ballads and upbeat tunes which kept the audience happy.
The setting, which is styled in vignettes, are well-conceived. A homey two-story inside the Parker house, the famous flagpole, Ralphie's classroom, sometimes taking place inside a giant snow globe.
Like the original movie, the show is filled with hilarious subplots. Mother can't cook anything except meatloaf and cabbage. Randy hides in weird places and will only eat when he imitates pigs. The Old Man enters a contest in the newspaper and wins a major award that he displays on the front window for the whole neighborhood to see. These subplots were the backbone of the show and kept the audience guessing the next one.
A CHRISTMAS STORY seems like it will settle in as an annual holiday show by virtue of its broad appeal. The show offers songs and silliness for kids, and for the adults in the audience, it's a chance to savor a wonderfully constructed Americana.
A CHRISTMAS STORY runs until December 3rd, so instead of just watching it on tv, enjoy the classic show at the Murat Theatre.