The Musical version of A CHRISTMAS STORY is visiting SHN for the holiday.
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, jack-frost nipping at your nose, yuletide carols being sung by a choir,” It is the holiday season. Family and friends gather together over a warm fire, after a hearty feast of turkey and delights, sipping on eggnog during the cold winter nights, while thinking presents set to open on Christmas morning. Thinking about presents, what better way to celebrate such a season by adding the holiday 1983 picture, "A Christmas Story" is the perfect movie to spend time with the one’s you love during winter, and maybe convincing them to get you something you really want. Ralph’s journey to triumph of getting the “Daisy Red Ryder Range Model 1938 Air Rifle” is finally on stage at San Francisco’s SHN Orpheum Theatre only till Sunday December 13th.
It has been a long wait for this musical to tour San Francisco, since its spell on Broadway in 2012, scoring a couple Tony nominations. It has been around for years, going coast to coast, and an early version was staged locally at the former San Jose Rep. Unfortunately this tour is only here for a very short five day run. So, make sure to catch this show. It heads to Denver on Monday. Directed by Matt Lenz’s (Pageant: The Musical, 2015 Drama Desk Best Musical Nominee, and The Irish Curse at Soho Playhouse), "A Christmas Story: The Musical", brings new life to Ralphie’s (Myles Moore) hilarious telling of tales on a grander scale, with the accompanying charm of Joseph Robinette’s book (Annie and Bye, Bye, Birdie) and upbeat holiday cheering score of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dogfight and James and The Giant Peach). If you are familiar with the film, you will feel kindled and taken back in time by Ralphie Parker’s desperate attempts of obtaining the Red Ryder carbine-action BB gun because everything from adults telling him “He Will Shoot His Eye Out” to the triple dog dare of getting a tongue stuck on a frozen flag pole is all in this show. But, you will also feel re-engaged by the nuances and radio show introduction of the original author Jean Shepherd (played by an awesome projectile of Chris Carsten) who narrates his younger self through the stage.
Matt Lenz’s direction is fruitful and spectacular, especially with the songs, making them an enchanting kid’s fantasy. With 40’s gang-banging tap numbers featuring Warren Carlyle’s choreography in “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out,” which is a show stopping number with the kids and Miss Shields (Avital Asuleen). With a glamourous moment when small but sprite tap out marvel Seth Judice does his solo. Ralphie is played by two talented pre-teens, and opening night, Dylan Boyd belted out his solo, making him amazingly lovable in “Red Ryder Carbine BB Gun” solo. His sweet little brother Randy (played by the quirky adorable eight year old Joshua Turchin) taps with the best of them, and rolls and tumbles in his winter clothes. Susannah Jones plays the boy's mom and her solo “What a Mother Does” is also a heart stealer.
More affairs that outrageously shine are with Ralphie’s strict and profane-hating father (played by a bumbling and steam driven Christopher Swan), especially in “Major award” (a song commemorating the sexy leg-shaped lamp). Swan comes out of his shell so well in the song that he is just gorgeous to watch. With kick lines with dancers and mannequin legs to romancing nothing but lamps, Swan and the company are a gut-busting sing along. The set is a two-story interior full of character and memories of the home from the film, which is designed by Michael Carnahan. A treat in the show are the two bloodhounds (Stella and Moss) that annoy the Old Man, causing the audience to cheer when they run across the stage. The two four leg stars of this show enjoy the Christmas turkey in the second act. Getting a hearty chomp down, they annoy the Old Man even further, making the Parker’s celebrate their holiday dinner at a Chinese eatery. Charlie Morrison’s lighting design is a character in this production, streamlined by backlit style action of Warren Carlyle choreography, making the book well captured and dynamic. Carlyle has two shining tap dance numbers with the youth cast and as all pros, making it one of the highlights in the show.
This is a tight production, and the kid cast is the winning side of this classic holiday story. At show’s end, when the cast is singing “A Christmas Story”, it is easy to get that old home feeling which is impossible to resist. The story is simple, sweet, and precious, Ralphie gets the BB gun and you have the best time hanging with this family and all their friends. Jean Shepard’s classic is a welcome to musical theatre, and a perfect homage to the family-fun of the holidays.
A Christmas Story: The Musical
Music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
Book by Joseph Robinette.
Directed by Matt Lenz.
Through Sunday, Dec. 13. $40-$160.
SHN Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., S.F.
(888) 746-1799. www.shnsf.com.