Late humorist Jean Parker Shepherd likely never imagined his tale of youthful yearning set to music, yet the solidly crafted “A Christmas Story – the Musical” delivers holiday magic for all ages. The musical, set in 1930s Indiana, remains as timeless as the 1983 “A Christmas Story” film and can be experienced now through January 4, 2015 at the John W. Engeman Theater inNorthport.
I will admit to some skepticism when initially considering a musical treatment of a classic movie like “A Christmas Story“, but as soon as David Schmittou took the stage as Jean Shepherd (a.k.a. adult Ralphie) and began his narration, any doubts I had vanished. Schmittou is an excellent choice to play the folksy Shepherd, with an earnestness and self-deprecating manner that lends warmth and credibility to the narrator role.
The beloved theme of the original “A Christmas Story” is intact. Protagonist Ralphie Parker dreams of getting a Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun (“with a compass in the stock, and this thing that tells time”) for Christmas, and his journey is fraught with obstacles in pursuit of his goal. The film’s famous visual plot devices, such as the sexy leg lamp, the absurd pink bunny pajamas, and the frozen flag are all present. And of course, much of the hilarious dialogue of the film is reprised, including the constant refrain of “you’ll shoot your eye out!”
The undeniable star of the show is Ethan Eisenberg as lead character Ralphie Parker. When Eisenberg lets his soaring vocals loose during the very first scene (“It All Comes Down to Christmas”), his talent is front-and-center for the rest of the show. Eisenberg has poise and stage presence that belies his age. Keep an eye on this young man; Eisenberg is a perfect casting choice for Ralphie and you can’t help but root for his character all the way through the play.
In addition to what you would expect of a classic retold, the music and accompanying musical numbers that make up the meat of “A Christmas Story – the Musical” are phenomenal. There isn’t a dud in the bunch, and each song will play in your head all over again if you glance at the titles in the playbill. With music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, choreography by Antoinette DiPietripolo, and directed by Richard T. Dolce, “A Christmas Story – the Musical” has a cast that boasts an abundance of talent: in addition to Schmittou and Eisenberg are veteran performers like Steve Luker as The Old Man, Gina Milo as the Mother, and Kathryn Markey as Miss Shields; an adept ensemble led by Dance Captain Larry A. Lozier Jr.; adorable redheaded Griffin Reese as little Randy Parker; and a wonderfully animated group of Kids as Ralphie’s friends and classmates, portrayed by the Red Cast the night of my viewing.
“A Christmas Story – the Musical” is thoroughly enjoyable and just the ticket to get you in the holiday spirit. If you are anywhere near Long Island I urge you to see this soon-to-be-classic musical. As always, the experience at John W. Engeman is delightful. Have a drink in the festive piano bar and enjoy the legroom in the stadium style theater. There is not a bad seat in the house, and tickets are reasonably priced.
Tickets are on sale and can be purchased by calling (631) 261-2900, by visiting the online box office, or stopping by the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport.
The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport is Long Island’s only year-round professional theater company, casting their actors from the Broadway talent pool. The renovated Theater offers stadium-style seating, state-of-the-art lighting and sound, a full orchestra pit, and a classic wood-paneled piano lounge with full bar. For a complete show schedule and more information contact the theater directly at 631-261-2900, visit the box office at 250 Main Street, Northport or visitwww.EngemanTheater.com.
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