Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 14, 2013

A Christmas Story-The Musical

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through November 17, 2013
by R.E. Smith

“A Christmas Story-The Musical,” like the holiday season itself, is a heart-felt mix of nostalgia, warmth, good humor, music, color, and spectacle. The creators have succeeded in enhancing and expanding the spirit of the original movie so well that it seems this story has always had a life on stage.

In the Midwest of 1940, young Ralphie Parker just wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, but there are obstacles, from protective adults to childhood perils of every kind. It is the child’s perspective that allows the addition of musical numbers to work so well, with many based around Ralphie’s daydream plans to obtain his prize. The score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul features some real crowd pleasers that nicely echo different styles and periods, from the Hollywood Western sound of “Ralphie to the Rescue” to the lovingly sentimental “A Christmas Story.”

The depth of talent in this production cannot be overemphasized as the adult leads originated the roles in New York last season. Dan Lauria, known as the father on “The Wonder Years,” plays narrator Jean Shepherd, upon whose short stories the book is based, with warmth and good cheer. Erin Dilly’s “Mother” sweetly embodies all the disparate elements that parenthood requires. John Bolton as the “Old Man” has 2 standout numbers with “The Genius on Cleveland Street” which shows that Ralphie’s predilection to fantasy is probably inherited. Aided by a kick-line of plastic leg lamps, he gets to express his joy in winning “A Major Award.” As Ralphie’s teacher, Caroline O’Connor brings down the house, ably assisted by the children of the ensemble, as she explains to the lad that “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out.” Of special note is young Luke Spring, a tap dance prodigy whose solo in that number is a spectacularly pleasant surprise.

Most of the original creative team is on board as well, and that consistency is evident in everything from the inventive choreography to the homey, snow globe-evoking set.

Whether you’ve ever enjoyed the 24 hour Christmas Eve marathon of the movie or not, this is a highly recommended family show.