I remember a month or so ago when I first saw a green bus barreling downtown with the advertisement stretched out on its side. The top half of a familiar, bespectacled blond head. The pink bunny ears.
I ran home to tell my husband – “They’re doing a musical version of A Christmas Story!”
Because like countless others, I can’t get enough of the 1983 cult classic film this time of year. I find a way to work “you’ll shoot your eye out!” and “OH, FUDGE” into every conversation.
Needless to say, I was pretty ecstatic last week at the 5th Avenue Theatre when the curtain finally rose. And after the energetic opening number, “Counting Down to Christmas,” I knew the show wouldn’t disappoint.
The movie would be nothing without Jean Shepherd’s narration, and Frank Corrado does an amazing job filling those shoes throughout the show. Ann Allgood gives a wonderful, heartwarming performance as Ralphie’s mom, and Matthew Lewis had a spot-on Randy voice (and really held his own in the musical numbers).
Clarke Hallum completely blew my mind starting right from the first tune. This sixth-grader from Olympia, WA played the Red Ryder 200 Shot Carbine Action Air Rifle-obsessed Ralphie to a tee, and his singing was just show-stopping.
And the Old Man…John Bolton, you have a new fangirl. For a brief moment in the beginning I thought he seemed a bit slap-sticky for Ralphie’s cranky, contest-obsessed furnace-tackling father. But Bolton made the role his, and now I can’t imagine dear old dad any other way.
Every iconic moment from the movie is captured in song, from the entertaining “Ralphie to the Rescue” to “Sticky Situation,” in which Flick accepts Schwartz’s dare to stick his tongue to an icy pole. (I think the moment I started crying from laughter came when Flick began singing a verse with his tongue still stuck to the pole.) And the infamous “fudge” moment…Hallum and Bolton are complete, 100% perfection.
My first thought when I started imagining what a musical version of A Christmas Story would be like was the leg lamp. I envisioned a Rockettes-style dance routine with dozens of the fishnet-stockinged living room eyesores.
And boy, did they deliver. “A Major Award” is one of the most memorable pieces of the show, largely due to the rubber-legged, Dick van Dyke-esque dancing and singing of Bolton. And the lamps. Oh, the lamps.
The opening number is so overwhelming, with an absolutely stunning set, fast pacing, a lightning round introduction to many of the major characters and a song dropping so many punchlines you laugh over half of them, that I was afraid the rest of the musical wouldn’t be able to keep the momentum going. It does – through the first act. While the second act holds many gems – the moment when Ralphie actually unwraps his beloved rifle in particular is hilariously charming – it does lag a bit in comparison.
All in all, it was possibly the best way I can imagine spending a winter evening out in Seattle. I left the theatre still giggling and ready to pop the movie in my DVD player again.