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BWW Review: Rare Stage Version of A CHRISTMAS STORY Shines at SMP


BWW Review: Rare Stage Version of A CHRISTMAS STORY Shines at SMP

A Christmas Story/by Philip Grecian/based on the 1983 film by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark and on Jean Shepherd's In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash/directed by Christian Lebano/Sierra Madre Playhouse (SMP)/through December 31

Remember the classic 1983 film in which little Ralphie Parker (Griffin Sanford) in a small town in Indiana in 1940 wants a BB gun and formulates an elaborate plan to get one from Santa Claus? "You'll shoot your eye out!" everyone complains. The movie contains one of the funniest scenes on film where little Flick (Jude Gomez) gets his tongue frozen on the school flag pole. Now in a rare production of the adapted movie script by Philip Grecian, A Christmas Story is live onstage with a bevy of kids, 14 in fact, and a whole lot of quaint antics, meticulously directed by artistic director Christian Lebano, at SMP through December 31.

Ralphie's 'old man' (Richard Van Slyke) and his wife, called simply Mother (Andrea Stradling) have two kids Ralphie and Randy (Marshall Gluck). A pack of vicious dogs bark next door every time the old man enters or leaves the house, the furnace in the basement is smoking, but other than that life is sweet. The family sits down to meatloaf and red cabbage every night, the boys are in school and pop has a job. He loves entering contests by the way and wins just about the ugliest lamp one could imagine - a shapely female leg - that he insists on putting in a prominent spot in the window for passersby to 'admire'. Mother hates it. He turns the lamp on and raises the window shade; she turns if off and lowers the shade. Minor disagreements but they love each other, as do the kids, who put up consistently with bullies like Scut Farkas (Gideon Cooney Lebano). Their teacher (Miss) Shields (Karyn O'Bryant) is a disciplined, tow the mark - we've all had one - kind of lady. Will Ralphie find a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle with compass and time device under the tree Christmas morning? Try saying that three times without stopping! The odds are not likely, but... in this type of comedy we expect a happy ending.

Directror Lebano has gone all out in double casting the kids in this production and in making them hit their marks and run up and down the aisles on cue. He blocks them in constant motion...and they are all good. What a theatrical learning experience for these youngsters! The older Ralph (Jackson Kendall) serves as narrator of the piece. He is in 1961 looking back at the action in 1940. Lebano appropriately places the past action behind a see-through curtain, and Kendall as older Ralph opens and closes said curtain throughout and then proceeds to watch the action from the side. It's kind of like Tom in The Glass Menagerie. I don't particularly like having the older Ralph in the script. Kendall is wonderful with what he does, but I'm not sure it's necessary. I would prefer to watch the scenes play out naturally with maybe some brief narrating from young Ralphie. But this is the writers' choice, certainly not SMP who present the play faithfully and with terrific staging and pacing.

BWW Review: Rare Stage Version of A CHRISTMAS STORY Shines at SMP

The entire ensemble perform to the max. O'Bryant steals the hour as the stern (Miss) Shields, a department store elf and a wicked witch. Xochiti Gomez-Deines also stands out as sweet little Esther Jane who has a serious crush on Ralphie. Charles Erven is to be highly commended for his superb scenic design on this small stage of the Parker house that includes the living room, kitchen and Ralphie's upstairs bedroom, as well as exteriors like the department store and Christmas tree lot.

Don't miss a chance to see A Christmas Story live onstage through the 31st of December only! Bring the kiddies. It's appropriate and fun for all ages.

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As always, the lobby is beautifully designed to suit the play.

BWW Review: Rare Stage Version of A CHRISTMAS STORY Shines at SMP

BWW Review: Rare Stage Version of A CHRISTMAS STORY Shines at SMP

BWW Review: Rare Stage Version of A CHRISTMAS STORY Shines at SMP

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