Review: National Tour of 'A Christmas Story'

Nancy Sasso Janis

  • Connecticut Critic
  • Connecticut Critics Circle

Waterbury, CT - I caught the matinee of The Big League Production, Inc. touring company of ‘A Christmas Story, The Musical’ at Waterbury’s Palace Theater on Saturday. Many families attended to experience this perennial holiday classic for the whole family, and everyone seemed to enjoy the musical based on the classic 1983 movie with which I was slightly familiar, but had never actually seen. So it was fun for me to see how the quirky leg lamp and pink bunny pajamas fit into the story, as well as how a maniacal department store Santa and a double-dog-dare to put a tongue on a freezing flagpole stands between young Ralphie and a coveted Christmas gift. The musical version incorporates lots of wonderful songs and splashy production numbers, and the tour follows a successful run on Broadway. 

This is the story of how young Ralphie Parker schemes his way to the Christmas gift of his dreams, an official Red Ryder® Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. Of course, everyone’s response is “You’ll shoot your eye out kid!” The book was written by Joseph Robinette, and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul wrote the the music and lyrics for the musical version. It is not really the typical heartwarming Christmas tale, but rather a story with children that happens around the holidays and the children’s ensemble is one of the best parts of this tour. 

The production values of this tour directed by Matt Lenz are impressive and big. The sets of Ralphie’s Indiana home and the department store Santa’s space complete with a slide sucked us into the story, but there were plenty of other moveable pieces and a wonderful red curtain that was used well. Michael Carnahan adapted the original scenic design by Walt Spangler and Charlie Morrison designed the tour lighting. 

The excellent 1940s period costumes for this tour were designed by Lisa Zinni based upon the original Broadway costumes by Elizabeth Hope Clancy and Gerald Kelly was in charge of hair and wig design. Warren Carlyle did the fun and festive choreography for all of the dancers in the company. There were eleven musicians in the traveling orchestra that made the happy score sound full under the direction of Andrew Smithson.

At the matinee, Myles Moore played the role of Ralphie, while his alternate Austin Molinaro was in the ensemble as Thor. Arick Brooks played his younger brother Randy. Chris Carsten was strong in the role of the radio storyteller Jean Shepherd. Christopher Swan was back for the third time as Ralphie’s father, dubbed “the old man.” Susannah Jones gave a shining performance as the boys’ devoted mother; with her lilting soprano she sang about “What a Mother Does.” 

Andrew Berlin was the less than jolly Santa, and Angelica Richie was terrific in the featured role of Ralphie’s teacher Miss Shields. The talented young actors included Sydney Chan (Waitress,) Josh Davis (Schwartz,) K’Lynn Jackman (Nancy,) Allie Kiesel (Mary Beth,) Joey Little (Grover Dill,) Wyatt Oswald (Flick,) and Sofia Pargas (Esther Jane.) The amazing tap specialty dancer was Lucas Marinetto (also Farkus.) In the adult ensemble was Jessica Crilley (‘Ragtime’ at Westchester Broadway Theatre) as an elf and Evan Mayer, who was also in the terrific ‘Ragtime’ at WBT. The Bumpus Hounds that live next door are played by actual dogs named Hoss and Stella.