The humor remains in A Christmas Story even when set to song.
Retaining it’s namesakes comedy lineage A Christmas Story, The Musical! at the Kansas City Repertory Theater brings the laughs but still feels much like its central character, young and eager but needing a chance to mature to be fully appreciated. Don’t mistake me, it’s fun for the whole family and a welcome change of pace from the last several interpretations of Dickens a Christmas Carol. It’s just that this feels like its in development as it works its way toward Broadway next year in this pre-Broadway world premiere.
The set compared to the stage filling sets of a Christmas Carol past are pretty sparse in comparison. Opening in a radio studio flanked by sound booths where many of the productions sound effects are performed, some times hilariously live. The floor is a sparkling white sheen and once we leave the radio studio are whisked away to a snow drift lined set with the opening number ‘Getting Ready for Christmas.’ Its a cheery and bright opening, given the downtrodden times portrayed leading into it. It just feels like something I have seen before since it really doesn’t stand out and feels pretty generic. Many of the numbers in A Christmas Story, The Musical! fell flat for me. Several of the songs based on moments from the film didn’t work for me. This includes I’ ‘Uck! which is a number based around the dare of whether or not one’s tongue sticks to a frozen poll, it does, which in the film pays off with hilarious results, but set to music didn’t work for me. The performance for it was really good considering Aaron Dwight Conley as Flick had to keep his tongue ‘stuck.’
For each number that falls flat, there are several that stand out. Take That! which is set as Ralphie writes his reasoning for why he should get a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas at school. During this number, all kinds of various villains and other wild threats spring out from just about every where with pretty comical results as sure shot Ralphie takes each of them down with his trusty fire arm. Ho, Ho, Ho! the number set to Ralphie’s visit to Santa is also fun as you peer into the minds of Santa and his helpers.
Being a show that is quite kid heavy in primary roles it could have easily been a disaster if it not for outstanding casting. Zachary Carter Sayle as Ralphie does an outstanding job in the lead. All the young adults in the show really do a great job. Although the best and funniest performance is provided by John Bolton as The Old Man. His performance in ‘A Major Award’ is hilarious as are his battles with the furnace. James Judy plays Jean Shepherd the narrator for the show who is nearly a dead ringer for the voice from the film.
Being one of the first family friendly productions at the Rep this is easy to recommend for the whole family. It’s funny, and entertaining enough that it covers up any of the parts of the show that lag.
A Christmas Story, The Musical! has had it’s run extended through January 3. Performances are Tuesday through Sunday at the Spencer Theater. For specific ticket information visit the rep online at www.kcrep.org or by calling the box office at 816-235-2700.
by John Coovert