BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL Gets You in the Christmas Spirit at Beef & Boards
A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL cannot fail to ignite the Christmas spirit and inner child in all of us. It is rife with great music, quotable moments, and fiascoes galore. It brings to life the inner-workings of one family just trying to get by during the frantic holiday season, and Beef & Boards serves up a full menu of family fun in this production.
As a native Hoosier, I am highly susceptible to the charms of A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL. Its references to life in good old Indiana and its Midwest wholesomeness are irresistible. It has some of the most iconic visuals known to Christmas cinema: the leg lamp, the pink bunny suit, and poor little Randy who can't put his arms down. It is also hard to conceive of how you can make this Christmas classic new to an audience without straying from what made it famous in the first place. It takes a dedicated cast and no small amount of talent to make this show just as appealing as the original.
Perhaps the most well-known phrase from the film and musical is "You'll shoot you're eye out," but one of the most well-beloved characters is The Old Man. He is the pinnacle of all things Midwest and all things "dad." He is known for his streams of obscenities and frequent fights with the furnace. But who could have known that he'd also be a sensational vocalist? Don Farrell brings The Old Man to life for Beef & Boards this season, and he is nothing short of a barrel (or maybe ten) of laughs. He can sing, he can dance, he can curse with the best of them. He's got it all. Farrell draw the eyes on stage with his boisterous and high-strung presence.
Another cast member who was the lucky recipient of the audience's laughter was Lanene Charters as Miss Shields, the intrepid and determined teacher who is one of Ralphie's last hopes of making his Christmas wish come true. She garnered her laughs with some exceptional dancing and a great mastery of inflection and tone to ramp up the slapstick comedy that is ingrained in the show. Her tap dancing during "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out" was a huge hit.
This show is not possible without children, and Beef & Boards cast an amazing group of young local talent to grace the stage. They were all impressive vocally, with their physicality, and with their dancing abilities. Beef & Boards always puts out highly polished and professional shows, but this production deserves especial applause for choosing children who can not only keep up with their adult counterparts but who also stood out in their own right.
None of the joy of A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL would be possible without Ralphie, played by Ben Kistner. He was masterful on the stage, and I was instantly drawn into his plight to finally own the highly-coveted Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun. His vocals were so incredibly consistent, and he showed no loss of energy or momentum in this highly-demanding full-length show. If you're feeling short on holiday cheer, have no fear because it's "Ralphie to the Rescue!"
Audience members of all ages hurried eagerly into Beef & Boards on Saturday night, my wife and I included, with dreams of a fun evening ahead but unsure of what would take place. We've all seen the movie, especially with being from Indiana. The orchestra began to play the overture, and the show began. We quickly found out that the next two hours would be filled with hilarity and delight. From the very first song, Counting Down to Christmas, we knew that we would be in good hands watching A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL. From the appealing and complicated sets by Michael Layton, to the skillful orchestration by Kristy Templet, the entire show gave us a night we were going to remember.
Ben Kistner's showing as Ralphie Parker was splendidly endearing, and he was 100% worthy to be the centerpiece to the musical. I honestly heard someone say, "That kid is amazing!", and we definitely agreed.
In Ralphie's world, there are dream sequences galore, and they were imaginative and exciting, making for a truly unique and whimsical viewing experience. Kistner's show-stopping songs, Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun and Ralphie to the Rescue, were personal favorites for me and my wife. Even two kids, spent the entire intermission singing Red Ryder..., which is always testament to the actor's performance. My 10-gallon hat is off to the young man.
For a show of this caliber, Kistner wasn't the only stand-out. Amy Bodnar and Don Farrell as Ralphie's mother and father had to play the difficult part of all Midwest mothers and fathers and did they 100% delivered for me. As soon as they started to sing, you realized how talented everyone in the show was.
Notwithstanding these special performances, the musical's true strength came in the small, intimate moments. Full of Christmas cheer, these short-lived moments of pause in between the musical numbers are soft, gentle, and reminiscent of Christmases past. The musical focuses on family, and at the end of the day, so is Christmas. A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL is playing at Beef & Board until December 31st.