Sunday, December 16, 2012

Manhattan - A Christmas Story: The Musical

We've been watching the classic 1983 movie "A Christmas Story" every holiday season for years now. This humourous tale, set around 1940, follows the adventures of young Ralphie Parker, who plots to receive a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. At every turn, he is thwarted by the admonishment "You'll shoot your eye out." Unlike other saccharine-sweet Christmas shows or movies, this one has a bite as it shows nostalgic vignettes in the small town life of Ralphie, his family and school friends. The grumpy store Santa is more vein of the Bad Santa movies than the Rudolf or Frosty ilk.

When we were searching for a good show to watch on Broadway during our Christmas-themed Manhattan trip, "A Christmas Story: The Musical" seemed like the perfect choice. The singing and acting abilities of the cast was excellent. We were especially impressed by the boy that played Ralphie, who could really belt out a song and hold a note, and had great comedic timing as well. The other children in the chorus were also very good, as they sang and danced throughout the show. One small boy in particular performed a spectacular tap dance number that wowed the audience. The role of adult Ralphie, who acts as the narrator of the story reminiscing about his childhood, is played by Dan Laurie who also played the father in the TV show The Wonder Years. This is fitting since this movie inspired the creation of The Wonder Years.

The musical included most of the iconic scenes from the movie, such as bundling Ralphie's little brother Randy with so much winter gear that he can't get up when he falls down, the frozen tongue stuck on the flag pole, the pink bunny suit, Chinese turkey (fa-ra-ra-ra-ra) and of course a major award for winning a crossword puzzle contest - the leg lamp. There was even a leg lamp can-can kick line in one of the big production numbers. When Ralphie's father is chased across his lawn by the hounds, real dogs are unleashed and run across the stage. These same hounds eat the Christmas turkey.  Fans of this movie need no further explanation about these scenes; those who haven't seen the movie need to do so as soon as possible!

The musical numbers ranged from light-hearted and fun to sweet and sentimental. In the opening number "Counting Down to Christmas", Ralphie sings about his gift wish:

"Don't know how. Don't know who
But all I know's I gotta get
A Red Ryder Carbine Stock with a Compass,
Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun!"

In the scene where schoolmate Flick gets his tongue stuck to a frozen pole on a "triple dog dare", the children sing:

 "You just sit, don't dare to admit it
If you're caught, they might haul you to jail
And in jail, they don't have Christmas
And Santa doesn't answer your mail
Its a sticky sticky sticky situation!"

The song "Up on Santa's Lap" has hilarious lyrics including:

"Up on Santa's lap
Little Nancy wants a new toy train (Woo! Woo!)
Little Nancy's drivin' me insane
Ain't that a lovely Christmas mob
I hate my job!"

This was a feel-good show that really puts you in the Christmas spirit. It was supposed to come to Toronto this season as part of the Dancap series, but has since been cancelled. Hopefully it will come another year as it is well worth seeing.

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