A Parent’s Review: A Christmas Story: The Musical!
If you don’t feel the Christmas spirit when you walk out of the 5th Avenue Theatre’s hilarious production of A Christmas Story: The Musical! there is something seriously wrong with you – even if you don’t celebrate that particular winter holiday.
Like the 1983 film that inspired it, the Seattle production is simply magical. From the mesmerizing snow cave setting that frames every set with an aura of Indiana cold to the powerful pipes of 11-year-old Olympia actor Clarke Hallum, who plays the lead role of 9-year-old Ralphie Parker, the show is as stylish as it is stellar.
And, if you have ever hoped for something specific under the tree on Christmas morning – or for that matter any celebration with a particular focus on gifts – then you will totally relate to Ralphie’s attempts to get his parents or Santa to leave an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle under the tree for him.
And that, right there, is the story synopsis. Ralphie wants a toy gun for Christmas and we, the audience, get to follow him, his friends, his buddies, and his parents as they dance and sing the minutes away ‘til reckoning day, with plenty of fun and frivolity along the way. It’ll be the rare kid that can’t relate to Ralphie’s earnestness in trying to keep to the best behavior and his deflation each time he trips himself up. The story is told by an adult narrator – grown up Ralphie, the radio show host – sharing the story on air.
I know I was not the only one in the audience harkening back to one special, torturous, Christmas season of my childhood. For me, it was my 13th year, when I wanted a turntable stereo so badly I could just spit thinking about it. I called my grandma and asked her to mention it to my parents. I roped in my best friend to extol the benefits of a record player. I cut out numerous pictures and left them conveniently around the house. When Christmas Day came and went with no stereo, I fought to hold back the tears and to act grateful for the other lovely gifts my parents provided me.
At around 9 p.m. that Christmas evening, there was a knock at the door. When I opened it, there was our neighbor holding a big box explaining, “I guess Santa got our houses mixed up … ”
The joke was on me; for years my parents would literally roll on the floor with laughter describing my attempts not to pout all day as they kept pushing the time back for the neighbor to arrive. My parents had an odd sense of humor.
So, I understand Ralphie Parker. Boy, do I! The disappointment of opening the last present under the tree and it not being The Gift. And the ecstasy of your parents coming through for you even at the cost of their better judgment. (Throughout the show, Ralphie’s mother tells him regarding his BB gun obsession: “You’ll shoot your eye out!” My mom feared a stereo would “wake the neighbors.”)
But back to the 5th Avenue’s top notch show. I like musicals, but I have to admit I get a little restless – and so do my kids – at most. Not here. My 15-year-old daughter wanted to buy the CD. She wanted to buy the CD of a show that is largely Christmas songs. That is saying something. Trust me.
The staging and choreography was swift and fine, with sets flying off and on stage with seamless precision and enough details to keep viewers engaged – but not so much that it distracts from the hysterical lyrics. When Clarke belted out the tune “Ralphie to the Rescue,” both my daughter and I howled and practically rushed to our feet in applause before remembering proper mid-scene audience decorum.
And, although at first I found veteran Broadway performer John Bolton’s take on the Old Man (Ralphie’s father) a tad wanting in energy, he picked up so much steam in his near acrobatic performance of the song “A Major Award” that I would have handed him a Tony if I had one in my pocket.
All this is to say that A Christmas Story: The Musical! is worth seeing. Your kids will love it, you will love it and so will the grandparents. A multi-generational score! And even if you hate all that the holiday has become, what with its advertising now starting before the Thanksgiving turkey is even cold, this show will throw you back to a different time, a time when the Depression was still a close memory and just one gift meant the world to a child.
Cheryl Murfin is a Seattle-area freelance writer.
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IF YOU GO
Where: Fifth Avenue Theatre, 1308 Fifth Ave., Seattle.
When: Through Dec. 30.; various times.
Cost: Tickets starting at $23.
Contact: To purchase tickets, call 206-625-1900 or purchase online at www.5thavenue.org/calendar/.