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BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS STORY, US Tour (DPAC)

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A festive family musical

A Christmas Story (Non-Eq)

If you're looking for something festive to do with the family, the national tour of A CHRISTMAS STORY is a fun option. The musical brings the beloved 1983 film to life onstage with music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who are known for hits like DEAR EVAN HANSEN and LA LA LAND. While the musical exposes the weakness of the plot of the film, the talented cast make it entertaining nonetheless.

A Christmas Story originally had a limited run on Broadway during the holiday season of 2012, before going on to be nominated for three Tony Awards the following year. The adaptation maintains some direct lines from the film and keeps all the pivotal factors: the garish leg lamp, the horrible department store Santa, and the irresistible dare to lick a frozen flagpole.

Jean Shepherd (played by a jovial Chris Carsten) acts as the narrator to guide the audience through the story of nine-year-old Ralphie Parker. Ralphie lives in Indiana in 1940 with his mother, father, and little brother Randy and the whole family is caught up in the countdown to Christmas. What Ralphie wants more than anything in the world is an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, but all the adults in his life are concerned that he'll shoot his eye out.

A Christmas Story (Non-Eq)While the vignette approach to the movie works, it didn't translate well to the stage. In general, a story about a boy wanting a gun doesn't play as well in 2021 as it did in 1983 when the movie was released. The humor around school bullies and the sons being afraid of their father finding out they've misbehaved also felt very dated.

The music has the typical pop musical theatre sound that Pasek and Paul are known for, but is missing any of the memorable songs from their more popular musicals. A lot of the songs sound similar, though "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out" stands out as a fun production number. While Briana Gantsweg is charming as Mother, her first solo "What a Mother Does" provides a rather dire and antiquated view of a mother's role within a household, even for the time period in which it's set.

The children are the best part of the show, from their energetic dancing to their singing. Blake Burnham and Keegan Gulledge alternate in the role of Ralphie and Burnham has a real star quality. His voice is fantastic and makes the songs shine, despite their generic sound, and he makes the character even more likable than he is in the original film.

A Christmas Story (Non-Eq)Another highlight is the production value, which is high particularly for a traveling show. The two story house set is impressive and the car set piece is utilized well. It's rare to see live animals used in a tour production, so the inclusion of the dogs is a nice treat.

Most Christmas shows have some sort of moralistic message in the end, but A Christmas Story's is murky. What feels more clear in the film gets lost in the musical though it tries to wrap it up in a nice bow at the end. The musical is unlikely to win over any adults not already familiar with the film, but for children and those who are nostalgic about the film, it's a fun way to spend a holiday evening.

A CHRISTMAS STORY is at DPAC through January 2.

Photo Credit: Gary Emord Netzle


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