Wednesday, November 25, 2015

review - A CHRISTMAS STORY, THE MUSICAL - National Tour: ASU Gammage

Christopher Swan
Photo Courtesy of Big League Productions, Inc.
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through November 29th.

"...Considering how well-known the story of young Ralphie Parker and his desire for a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and a thing that tells the time has become, the idea of seeing it as a musical with songs shoehorned in – even for musical buffs – might have seemed odd.  Could the modest, home-spun story of Ralphie work with songs, grand productions numbers and even, gulp, tap-dancing?   The answer, thankfully, is a surprising, yes.  Those big numbers don’t exactly enhance the story – they’re show-stoppers in every sense of the word – but they’re colorful, spectacular, and a ton of fun.  Because of repeated viewings, seeing characters that have become so well-known is here akin to watching old friends who’ve suddenly taken singing and dancing lessons and they want to tell their story all over again....Adapted for the stage by Jospeh Robinette, the plot of nine year-old Ralphie (played on alternate nights by Dylan Boyd and Myles Moore) and his desire for that Red Ryder BB gun is the same, and so are the subplots....Unlike most films where the overuse of a voice-over narration often gets in the way, the pleasure of hearing author and humorist Jean Shepherd’s anecdotal comments was essential and became a character in of itself. ...The songs with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are likable and occasionally surprisingly spectacular....The thing that makes A Christmas Story work so well, both as a film and in this dazzling, colorful, live musical, is that warm, comforting feeling of a nostalgia for Christmas of the past. ....At the time of writing this review, like the lyrics to the opening song, Thanksgiving will soon be over and November is almost done.  After the 29th, so too will A Christmas Story at ASU in Tempe.  Treat yourself and the family to an early Christmas gift before it closes and moves on..... " -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"The 1983 quirky film A Christmas Story is the latest holiday "classic" movie to get a musical adaptation. Based on radio humorist Jean Shepherd's stories of being a boy in Indiana in the 1940s, the film and musical follow young Ralphie's quest to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. The movie can be seen in heavy rotation during the holiday season on cable TV and the musical captures just about every humorous, odd ball, and touching moment of Ralphie and his family's Christmas story in a whimsical and heartwarming style. After performances in several cities, the show made its Broadway debut three years ago, where it received several Tony nominations, including ones for Best Musical and Best Score. The current touring production has a winning cast and features creative elements on par with the Broadway production and is a fun way to kick off and celebrate the holiday season. The story centers around a traditional middle-class family who is trying to do what needs to be done not only to survive but also to make it through another Christmas season. The musical sticks fairly close to the film and brings to life many of the iconic, quirky, comical scenes from the movie...These humorous moments and phrases, and the touching story at the core, are what have made the movie a classic. Joseph Robinette wrote the book, and the music and lyrics are by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, all of whom made their Broadway debuts with this production....While not all of Pasek and Paul's songs are exceptional, there are varied song styles including some big splashy numbers and a couple of comical tunes, all with fun lyrics, and several songs are also catchy toe tappers....Robinette's book includes a lot of narration for the character playing Jean Shepherd and, while it works to move the plot forward, it is a bit of a downside because, while Shepherd is weaved throughout the show, they really haven't found a way to seamlessly incorporate him into the show. He seems more like an outsider to the events happening in front of him. Chris Carsten is Jean Shepherd, the narrator...(he) has the right amount of balance in his delivery, not only in the fondness he has looking back but also at the memory of all of the things that went wrong in the process of his attempt to get that BB gun. As Ralphie, Myles Moore projects a good sense of fear, determination and desperation that any child has when they want something but see many obstacles in the way of achieving their goal....He also has a wonderful relationship not only with Christopher Swan and Susannah Jones who play his parents but also with Josh Turchin who is hilarious as Ralphie's younger brother Randy. ....Lenz and Carlyle also make excellent use of the children in the ensemble.. the fantasy scenes are well staged with fun choreography. The creative elements are top notch as well, and are based on the Broadway designs....The national tour of A Christmas Story, The Musical is a well done adaptation with a nice theatrical score, winning performances, fun choreography and a well-used ensemble. While it helps to have seen the film to experience the many funny moments played out on stage, even if you haven't you will still find much to like about the show. I don't need to triple dog dare you to go, just go and have a wonderful time with this crazy and touching family."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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