A CHRISTMAS STORY – THE MUSICALBook by Joseph Robinette
Music and Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
AT&T Performing Arts Center
Directed by Matt Lenz
Choreography by Warren Carlyle
Associate Director – Michael Rader
Associate Choreographer – Brooke Martino
Originally Directed on Broadway – John Rando
Original Scenic Design – Walt Spangler
Scenic Design Adaptation – Michael Carnahan
Original Costume Design – Elizabeth Hope Clancy
Tour Costume Design – Lisa Zinni, Michael McDonald
Original Lighting Design – Howell Binkley
Tour Lighting Design – Charlie Morrison
Orchestration – Larry Blank
Sound Design – Steve Rogers
Hair and Wig Design – Gerard Kelly
Musical Supervisor – Andrew Smithson
Dance Musical Arrangements – Glen Kelly
Vocal Arrangements – Justin Paul
Casting – Alison Franck, CSA
Technical Supervisor – Don S. Gilmore
Jean Shepard – Chris Carsten
Ralphie (Alternating) – Michael Norman/Ian Shaw
Mother – Briana Gantsweg
Randy – Jasper Davenport
The Old Man – Paul Nobrega
The Bumpus Hounds – Hoss, Stella
Schwartz – Seth Black-Diamond
Flick – Benjamin Barham-Wiese
Thor – Ben Choi-Harris
Esther Jane – Kylie Standley
Mary Beth – Clementine Kline
Scut Farkus – Wyatt Oswald
Grover Dill – Braeden Brickner
Miss Shields – Lauren Kent
Fantasy Villain – Matthew Brennan
Bank Manager – Seth Black-Diamond, Ben Choi-Harris
Bank Robbers – Dean Cestari, Dan Smith
Prisoner – Dean Cestari
Can Can Girlfriend – Clementine Kline
Policeman – Dan Smith
Fireman – Dean Cestari
Doctor – Charles Pang
Nurse - Erica Jane Hughes
Flick's Mother – Hannah Fairman
Mobster Tap Specialty – Wyatt Oswald
Santa Claus – Dan Smith
Chief Elves – Dean Cestari, Erica Jane Hughes
Dorothy – Maisie Van Vleet
Nancy – Kailyn Rose Sanders
Goggles Kid – Braeden Brickner
Waiters – Ben Choi-Harris, Charles Pang
Reviewed Performance: 12/12/2018
Reviewed by Ann Saucer, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The premise of A Christmas Story is a comic retelling of Christmas from the perspective of a child – specifically, a boy obsessed with obtaining a heavily advertised BB Gun. The action is narrated as a radio program describing the Christmas in which Ralphie Parker comes to understand his parents in a new, appreciative light. Like the movie, the musical tempers the nostalgia with plenty of laughs.
This musical delights with a series of phenomenal song and dance numbers. "It All Comes Down to Christmas" sets the stage for optimistic holiday expectations – in some cases too optimistic. While Ralphie pines for that Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun, the adults harbor their own Christmas wishes: A wife who can cook, and a child who gets straight A's, to name some unrealistic examples.
This production showcases seriously talented child actors. Ralphie's singing is consistently spectacular; he leads song and dance numbers with extraordinary aplomb and is clearly a major talent.
On the schoolyard, Ralphie introduces us to Schwartz and Flick. The ensemble of talented singing kids delights in "When You're A Whimp." We return to the yard in "Sticky Situation," which fans of the movie will remember well. One endearing feature of this play is the attention accorded to the world of childhood. The sticky misfortune, as foolish as it foreseeably was from the onset, is the culmination of the triple dare versus triple dog dare rules; it somehow made sense if you were a nine-year old at that time and place.
We also see Ralphie in the classroom, where his overactive imagination runs the gambit through a series of dramatic Wild West subplots. The classroom disappears, and the audience is transported into Ralphie's imagination. One example of "Ralphie to the Rescue!" saving the day is replaced with another as he defeats the villains, singing all the while. The quickly morphing set and costume changes are impressive and succeeded in keeping the rapt attention of children in the audience.
As Ralphie's father (aka the Old Man), Paul Nobrega is wonderfully goofy, and comically prideful, as he sings and dances his way through "The Genius on Cleveland Street" and "A Major Award." It is a stellar performance. His "award" is the infamously tacky leg lamp. Mother is mortified, and the neighbors are scandalized, but Dad is immune to the controversy because this lamp is his award for successfully completing a crossword puzzle. If you thought the leg lamp was funny in the movie, you are going to love this. A line of leg lamp dancers frolic before a leg lamp light display. The light design elevates the leg lamp to a sign of the zodiac. The grand stage at the Winspear Opera House affords a light show of delightful, monumentally tacky proportions.
In addition to being a convincing bully, child actor Wyatt Oswald proves to be a tap dancing prodigy in the Mobster Tap Specialty. His confident finesse in the spotlight is wholly warranted by his grace and speed. The other children and Miss Shields (Lauren Kent) also earned cheers for their tapping in the musical number "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out," which is another marvelous diversion into Ralphie's overactive imagination.
As Mother, Briana Gantsweg has a powerful, beautiful voice and great stage chemistry with her children, Ralphie and Randy (Jasper Davenport). Davenport shows impressive comic chops for one so young, including in the hilarious "Up on Santa's Lap" scene. If you had a screaming younger relative, you will love this (not that I'm speaking from personal experience; I've heard rumors). Crotchety Santa and his Elves also comically lampoon this holiday tradition.
The set and costume designs combine to create a visual feast. At one point, the Indiana residents, appearing in their 1940's winter garb, are reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting. The Parkers' two-story house on Cleveland Street appears in charming cross section. We see Ralphie and Randy's upstairs bedroom, the living room, and Mother's kitchen, complete with canisters and cooking utensils. The house gives way to numerous scene changes in this entertaining, fast-paced production. In addition to the ever-changing backdrops to the fantastic fantasy sequences, the audience is transported to Ralphie's school, Higbee's Department Store, and the one restaurant that is open on Christmas day. The numerous meticulously designed costumes include dancing saloon girls and period pajamas.
A Christmas Story – The Musical is a festive holiday romp with a spectacularly impressive cast. The children and adults in the audience had a great time, and I highly recommend this production for family friendly holiday fun.
Presented by Big League Productions, Inc.
December 12 through 16, 2018
AT&T Performing Arts Center Winspear Opera House
2403 Flora Street, Dallas, Texas 75201
For information and Tickets call 214.880.0202 or go to attpac.org.