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A Christmas Story, The Musical!

The musical adaptation of the iconic holiday film is fast-paced, ingratiating, and superbly cast. logo
John Bolton in A Christmas Story, The Musical!
(© Carol Rosegg)
This musical adaptation of the iconic 1983 film, A Christmas Story, The Musical!, now finishing a mini-tour at the Chicago Theatre, is faithful to the original without being slavish. The result is a fast-paced and ingratiating show at once familiar and yet refreshing.

The musical retains the films episodic construction and the narrative voice of original author Jean Shepherd, which is nostalgic without being sentimental. Further, the musical's adapters, who include librettist Joseph Robinette and composer-lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, understand that you don't write down for kids.

Furthermore, a superb cast, dominated by the awesome triple-threat Clarke Hallum as Ralphie and rubber-faced, elastic-bodied John Bolton as The Old Man (Ralphie's dad), adds immeasurably to the show's success.

Director John Rando and choreographer Warren Carlyle field a chorus line of kids that's the same size (12 of each) as the adult chorus, and then cleverly weave them into the narrative. For example, in the big Act I showstopper, "Ralphie to the Rescue," several of the girls play Can-Can-kicking bar girls to match the proportions of Ralphie as the Boy Hero (as he imagines it) with his Red Ryder Carbine Action Air Gun, while in the big department store Santa scene, several kids mix with adults to play Santa's elves.

Moreover, Rando knows how to make fun of clichés (as he did in Urinetown, The Musical), while he and Carlyle skillfully integrate the choreography so you never say, "Oh, look, here's a dance number."

The score is pleasantly pastiche-like in the classic Broadway tradition, with just a few hints of the show's 1940's setting. Ditto, the fast-flying scenery and costumes (the most period-specific element), which are colorful and generic enough to serve for many seasons without being 1940's-heavy. No TV's? No cellphones? No computers? Shepherd's story has nothing to do with all that, so why should this show?

As Ralphie, Hallum is strong and sure of voice, deft on his feet, and able to dominate the stage without ever making a brat of himself. His superior supporting team includes not only Bolton, but Rachel Bay Jones, sweetly and most effectively underplaying Mother, Matthew Lewis, holding his own as younger brother Randy, Gene Weygandt as Jean Shepherd, and Karen Mason as schoolteacher Miss Shields.

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