By G.P. Avants
I just got a jump start into the holiday season! The Christmas Story was already of my favorite Christmas movies, but seeing adapted as a musical became a whole new experience. I was so excited about seeing this performance that I wanted to make an entry into my weekly blog post.
In this musical adaptation of the 1983 film, we were transported back to the 1940’s via the radio show of Jean Shepherd. Our narrator interacted with his younger self, Ralphie Parker, 24 days (and counting down) before Christmas Day. The entire ensemble is all there just like I remembered from the film: Ralphie, Randy, Mom, Dad (The Old Man), Swartz, Flick, Mrs. Shields, and the nostalgic townsfolk from Hohman, Indiana. Each person had their characters down to a tee. As Ralphie navigates his way through a child’s wonder and wackiness of Christmas, the Old Man and his wife made that house a home despite the challenges they faced.
Samuel Nalick had Ralphie Parker down to a tee, glasses and all. He embodied our intrepid hero and his plans to achieve the best gift that he had or would ever have for Christmas: The Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and “this thing which tells time”. We all know at what lengths Ralphie had to endure to receive his gift, but the story had new twists and turns that the audience would soon discover.
Our good friend Tanner Levasseur played Ralphie’s best friend Flick. His claim to fame was being the boy who was triple-dogged dared into sticking his tongue to a frozen flag pole. Tanner being a fantastic tap dancer, brought out a whole other side to Flick via his deft tapping toes.
Rachel Pfeifer Green and Jason Wesley Green brought Mom and Dad into the musical foray. We experienced moments by them both that helped us understand who Ralphie’s parents were, inside and out. If we didn’t love them already, we did after this performance. The humor, the family drama, and the Spirit of Christmas past reflected all the reasons why this was such a great holiday classic.
Part of the classic zaniest of the film came through Ralphie’s active imagination. He envisioned, plotted, and schemed how he would receive the treasures gift of his dreams in all its glory. I sat back and mused on those moments and how it would flesh out on the stage. I wasn’t disappointed in the least. The song, “Ralphie to the Rescue”, supported our hero’s reasons why having the Red Rider is not only the epitome of the perfect Christmas present, but would protect everyone in Mr. Parker’s life. There were many great musical moments that allowed Ralphie’s dreams and schemes to be shared with us, his captive audience.
As I watched the play I also began to predicting about some of the classic icons that abound in the Christmas Story: The Major Award, the use of the “fudge” word, and the pink bunny suit were just a few I hoped would be featured. The Old Man, as Ralphie’s father is remembered, wins the curvy leg lamp, AKA the Major Award. In a musical number, we get to see where Ralphie’s inherited his active imagination. The Old Man, in his ecstasy, dreamt of the lamp in all its feminine glory.
The not-so-subtleness of the finer points of the English language were explored with a family car trip halted by a flat. Do you remember the moment Ralphie resorted to blurting out the four-letter expletive after losing the car’s lug nuts? FUUUUDGE! Neither will he. Our fallen hero muses on his fatal fudged up moment with a bar of life boy soap stuck in his mouth. That was bad, but Swartz got it worse.
Just when things couldn’t get worse, Christmas Day broke without a Red Rider locked and loaded. Yet, Aunt Clara’s infamous handmade Pink Bunny suit became the mantle of Ralphie’s failure. He pouted with everyone’s dire warning echoed in his ears: “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” Yet, thanks for the Old Man the Red Rider and Ralphie Parker are destined to become legend after all.
Just when I thought the story couldn’t get any better, by Jove, it did. Underpinning the entire story were the themes of love, the importance of family, and persevering through difficult times. When Ralphie’s mom sung about the challenges of being a mother, and yet, doing it all because she loved her family, it moved me. Jean Shepard masterfully translated all of the tough, odd, and difficult things kids and parents exchange in words into love for each other. His character, in hindsight, brought back reminders of what a past generation wants us to never forget: We all can be blessed, especially in the times and seasons we are in, by the love and support of our family and friends. Yes, this is A Christmas Story, but the message is one we should hold precious thought out the whole year.
Thank you, Temecula House for another memorable and moving presentation. The theatre has always done great shows that cover a variety of topics. There isn’t a bad seat in the house, the prices are affordable, and it features lots of local talent. I encourage everyone to support the arts and the artists talents and hard work.
Merry Christmas and have a great start to your new year! And please, don’t shoot your eye out, kid!