|A CHRISTMAS STORY, THE MUSICAL|
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular was once the only major family holiday show in town. Now there’s a flurry of them, including How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Elf and, new to the New York stage this year, A Christmas Story, a big, noisy musical version of the 1983 neoclassic film, based on Jean Shepherd's semiautobiographical stories. It takes an arch, gently witty tale about the holiday season in 1940s Indiana and figuratively turns the volume up to ear-splitting levels. Some spunky, fun numbers and a hardworking cast entertain, but it's an obligatory, commerce-inspired adaptation, and neither the songs, by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, nor the book by Joseph Robinette can match the brilliance of the source material.
Dan Lauria of Wonder Years fame is the adult Shepherd, who narrates this near replica of the film, with musical numbers inserted. The show follows young Ralphie (Johnny Rabe, delightful) in his quest to get a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. "You’ll shoot your eye out" is the common refrain (and even the title of a song that morphs into gangster-style fantasy sequence). Meanwhile, there are bullies to contend with at school, and at home, a younger brother (Zac Ballard), overprotective mother (Erin Dilly) and father (John Bolton) who becomes enamored with an incredibly tacky "leg lamp" that he wins in a newspaper contest. That infamous object (which you can buy in the lobby) becomes the centerpiece of the overblown number "A Major Award." Choreographer Warren Carlyle uses a dancing ensemble of lamp-bearing adults and kids to quirkily amusing effect. How could a Forbidden Broadway parody possibly top that?
Director John Rando's overall production is quite cute — there’s even a pair of large dogs to wreak havoc — but too often takes the easy way out. A department store Santa is a drunk and his elves are nasty? We’ve seen these characters before, and in fresher, better executed circumstances. Like a lot of presents handed out over the holidays, A Christmas Story is a nice enough gift, but also an unnecessary one.
By Diane Snyder
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Dan Lauria, John Bolton, Erin Dilly, Johnny Rabe, Zac Ballard, Caroline O’Connor, Eddie Korbich, Joe West
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