Sunday, December 4, 2016

reviews - A CHRISTMAS STORY, THE MUSICAL - Arizona Broadway Theatre

David Johnson, Tristan Klaphake, Andy Meyers, Corban Adams, and Carolyn McPhee
Photo by Scott Samplin
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 December 28th.

"...Unlike the now classic 1983 film upon which the show is based, in A Christmas Story: The Musical... it’s the character of Jean Shepherd who narrates the story, bringing the images of his broadcasts to life while walking among the action like an unseen, benevolent Christmas spirit. In the seasonally sparkling new production of A Christmas Story: The Musical, now playing at Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria until December 28, Shepherd is played with warmth and an extreme good-hearted nature by ABT regular Andy Meyers, and it’s he who walks us through the story as though he’s telling us of his own childhood at Christmas; one Christmas in particularly where a boy’s 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 is all–consuming....The reason why the show works as well as it does is because of how it reflects a cozy feeling of nostalgia we all have when we think of the overall spirit of a Christmas past....As seen through the eyes of young Ralphie (played on alternate nights by either Tristan Klaphake or Easton Dana), dad is always referred to as The Old Man (David Johnson), continually harassed by the neighbor’s dogs, and whose salty, potty-mouthed language is an art unto itself, and Mother (Carolyn McPhee) who never appears to have time for herself at the dinner table as she continually attends to the wants, needs and the second helpings for the rest of the family during meal times.  Director and choreographer Stephen Casey keeps the action hopping as the show jumps from one family episode to another...Lottie Dixon’s period costume designs, Amanda Gran’s wigs and makeup, and Douglas Clarke’s detailed scenic design of the family home, lit by Heather Reynold’s atmospheric lighting and backed by W. Brent Sawyer’s music direction, all work together to create both a picture perfect look and sound of a Christmas card brought to glittering, musical life. With a truly delightful cast of talented, singing and dancing kids and the depiction of unforced warmth of a small town, average family that never at any point feels overly sentimental – achieved in no small part by the outstanding casting of Johnson and McPhee – ABT’s A Christmas Story: The Musical truly kicks off the Christmas season in the way you would want it to. It’s little wonder that Saturday evening’s audience responded to the show so quickly with a rousing chorus of cheers and approval from the very beginning.." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"...the quirky film A Christmas Story ...has now become a holiday classic, beloved by many for its humorous and nostalgic look at the holidays and simple family life circa 1940. The musical adaptation, which is based on radio humorist Jean Shepherd's comical and endearing stories of being a boy in Indiana in the 1940s, made its Broadway debut a few years ago to great acclaim,...Arizona Broadway Theatre presents the region premiere of this funny and warm-hearted musical in a well-cast and smartly directed production. ...the musical follows the plight of young Ralphie and his quest to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. The story also focuses on his traditional middle-class family. It is a beautiful, sweet, charming, touching and comical story of a family of four and the various things they do to get by and to survive another holiday season. The stage adaptation brings to life many of the iconic comical scenes and phrases from the movie. The touching identifiable story and funny moments are what have made the movie a classic. Joseph Robinette wrote the book for the musical, and the music and lyrics are by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. ...While their score for this show isn't completely successful, there are several toe-tapping numbers that will most likely stick in your head for weeks...Robinette's book adheres close to the plot of the film. ...in the Broadway production the character of Shepherd wasn'’t always incorporated into the show, serving more as an on-looker to the events in his past. Here, director Stephen Casey finds ways to increase his presence and weaves the Shepherd character into the action throughout which helps to make him feel more a part of Ralphie's plight to get his rifle as well as an extended member of Ralphie's family. ...Tristan Klaphake does a very good job as Ralphie. The pained expression he constantly has on his face to display a mixture of fear and desperation and the feeling that nothing ever seems to go right for him is perfect. He has a sweet, full and pure singing voice which excels on his many songs. It is a winning performance of a determined young man we can root for. ...The main adult actors deliver strong performances led by Andy Meyers who is endearing, heartwarming and full of charm as Jean Shepherd with an appropriate amount of fondness and nostalgia in his narration. As Ralphie's parents, David Johnson and Carolyn McPhee deliver engaging and loveable performances. Johnson has the right balance of frustration and love beneath the constantly frustrated yet caring father and husband, and McPhee's warm, smooth voice and calming presence is exceptional in portraying this woman who is the glue that holds the family together. She also excels in her two solo songs. As Ralphie's teacher Miss Shields, Alyssa McGuigan's powerful belt brings down the house in the lively "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out" production number. ABT's creative elements are superb, with the combination of Douglas Clarke's exceptional two-story house set, Lottie Dixon's colorful period appropriate costumes, and Heather Reynolds' lighting creating some beautiful stage images. ...A Christmas Story, The Musical captures just about every humorous, odd ball, and touching moment from the film of Ralphie and his family's Christmas story in a comical and heartwarming style. ....The combination of the beautiful lobby décor, the always great ABT food, and this charming show is an excellent way to kick off and celebrate the holiday season. A Christmas Story, The Musical will most likely put a big smile on your face from start to finish. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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