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A Christmas Story

Review by Tulis McCall

Oh Good Grief. We are awash in hopeful holiday musicals. And THIS one is stupendous. Taken from a story the wonderful Jean Shepherd (Dan Lauria) told on the radio, and made into a 1983 movie, this one gets you from the opening lines as Shepherd says he passed by a Salvation Army Santa on the way to Work and remembered another Christmas, in another time, in another place, and . . . a gun.

The year was 1940 so this was not a gun that was going to be used to take a life. This was an official red Ryder range model carbine action BB gun with a compass in the stock, and this thing that tells time.

Just thinking about this gun was pure b-l-i-s-s- for Ralphie (Johnny Rabe/Joe West), and all he had to do was make his desire known without someone saying Ralphie, you'll shoot your eye out. This is Ralphie's quest, along with avoiding getting beat up by the local bully, and one that avoids his grasp over and over and over again.

First they are the parents, Mother (Erin Dully) and The Old Man (John Bolton), one of whom does the eye thing and the other is too focused on his word contests. When The Old Man is rewarded for his contest efforts with a lamp of questionable, never mind slightly x-rated, taste, there is just not enough room for anything else on the planet. Dad even gets his own show stopping number that is nearly a Ziegfeld extravaganza. John Bolton is brilliant along the lines of Ray Bolger. Ralphie turns to his teacher Miss Shields (Caroline O'Connor) who takes the admonition about the eye thing a step further into a sizzling number that includes a tap duet with 9-year-old Luke Spring that is nothing short of phenomenal.

It is one lollapalooza number after another, intertwined with the narration of Lauria with the result that this is a musical about childhood that is meant for folks of all ages. Adults will nod in recognition as Erin Dilly sings Just Like That about moments in our lives that fly by. Kids will howl over the triple dog dare involving licking a certain icy cold flagpole. And everyone, everyone will identify with the drop-dead-I-am-not-even kidding passion of a child's wish for a kind of miracle to drop into the center of the family on command.

It is a sweet, funny, sentimental extravaganza. The book by Joseph Robinette is simple and unadorned and the music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paulis are downright grand. There are live musicians who know what they are up to. And oh, yeah - not to be out done by Annie, these folks don't have one dog. They have two.

Bloodhounds! No kidding.

Must have been the scent of a good show that they were following!

(Tulis McCall)

"'A Christmas Story,' ..., wins points for being less glitzy and more soft-spoken than the garish, overbearing musical versions of 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' and 'Elf.'"
Charles Isherwood for NY Times

"Goofy goings-on keep the film, and the musical — co-produced by the movie Ralphie, Peter Billingsley — from turning maudlin."
Joe Dziemianowicz for NY Daily News

"This is a sweet, funny holiday outing, the rare family entertainment that doesn't feel like a soulless, dumbed-down corporate product."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

"An unlikely animal: a cynical commercial entertainment with a soul."
Erik Haagensen for Back Stage

"It has singing, dancing, humor, enthusiasm and some talented performers. If, inside it, there's an affecting story struggling unsuccessfully to get out, well, that's showbiz."
Robert Feldberg for The Record

"The movie is special but on stage the added trimmings make A Christmas Story a theatrical gift for all seasons."
Roma Torre for NY1

"Proves to be a genuine charmer."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

"A cut above the pack, it's cute, corny, wholesome and sentimental - all basic requirements for family-friendly seasonal stage entertainment."
David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter

"While "Christmas Story" is a natural for kids, there's more than enough here for grown-ups of all ages."
Steven Suskin for Variety

New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Back Stage - The Record - Newsroom Jersey - Hollywood Reporter - Variety

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