Every year the movie A Christmas Story can be seen over and over on numerous channels during the holiday season. This year Paper Mill Playhouse brings this iconic story to the stage. This musical incorporates all the scenes people remember from the movie such as the leg lamp, the pink bunny suit and the BB gun. This production not only tells the story that is so well known from the movie, it also incorporates a strong storyline about the importance of family and tradition. A Christmas Story at Paper Mill Playhouse, under the direction of Brandon Ivie, is wonderfully charming as it brings to life this iconic movie to the stage.
I have to admit that I have always found this movie a bit quirky, and it is not a part of my standard holiday movie viewing repertoire. However, I know that I am in the minority in this thought. Although I found the musical version of A Christmas Story to be delightful and full of holiday spirit. What I thought this musical did well, is that it brings to light the themes of tradition and family that may not necessarily come across in the movie. This is done through musical numbers, some are full of energy and others will pull at the heartstrings. The book for A Christmas Story: The Musical is by Joseph Robinette and the music and lyrics are by Justin Paul and Benj Pasek.
What I loved about this cast of A Christmas Story is not only are they full of zest and charm, but they bring to life aspects of the characters from the movie that we are all familiar with. As much as I felt the entire cast was strong, the parents of this musical are the heart of the show. Playing Mother is Elena Shaddow, and playing the Old Man is Chris Hoch. Shaddow and Hoch have a strong onstage chemistry, and they really are a reminder of the importance of family. Shaddow brings forth the aspect of the mother in the way that she is always optimistic and there is a remarkable tenderness that comes through in the scenes with her children. There is a song that is beautifully performed by Shaddow, “Just Like That,” which will remind audiences of the love a mother has for her family. Hoch is perfectly cast as The Old Man. He imparts the irritability of this character in dealing with life’s day to day challenges, and in addition, he is incredibly animated. Hoch is immediately likable, and some of the more humorous moments of the show, such as the number, “Major Award,” are extremely well done. Playing the iconic role of Ralphie, the boy who has one mission, to convince his parents that he needs, “an official Red Ryder carbine action range model BB gun,” is Colton Maurer. Maurer is spirited and enjoyable in this role. His number “Ralphie to the Rescue” is strong. This number is also a strong ensemble number and has brilliant choreography by Mara Newberry Greer. Playing Ralphie’s younger brother, Randy, is Hudson Loverro. Loverro brings out the fretfulness of a younger sibling, and he is amusing in the scene with the snow suit. Ted K?ch plays Jean Shepherd, who serves as the narrator. K?ch starts the show off strong as he begins his narration in the vein of a 1940s radio show, and he is full of personality throughout the production. In the role of Miss Shields, Ralphie’s teacher, is Danette Holden. Throughout the show Holden captivates audiences with her performance. Her song, “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out” is brilliantly done, and Holden along with a few tap dancing children are incredible to watch. Rounding out this cast is Benjamin Howes as Santa. Howes is flawless as he brings to life the disgruntled Santa at Higbee’s department store that we all remember from the movie.
Another aspect of this show that really worked for me is the set. The set for A Christmas Story designed by Walt Spangler pays great attention to detail. Through the set every aspect of the show is infused with holiday spirit, from the house to the school room. Elizabeth Hope Clancy designed the marvelous costumes. In addition, the Lighting Design is by E. Mitchell Dana and the Sound Design is by Randy Hansen.
A Christmas Story runs at Paper Mill Playhouse through January 3, 2016. For more information and tickets visit their website at www.papermill.org or call the box office at 973-376-4343.
Final Thought: A Christmas Story at Paper Mill Playhouse is spirited and delightful as it brings to life this iconic holiday movie on stage. It a musical that reminds us of the importance of family at the holidays, and it does this through a first rate production that includes energetic and moving performances.
Kelli Curtin is editor and writer for theatresensation.com. In addition, she is a contributor for the online site broadwayworld.com. Kelli is excited to share her passion about theatre and the Arts with her readers. Kelli can be found on Twitter, Facebook and on Instagram.
Photo 1: A Christmas Story: The Musical at Paper Mill Playhouse; Photo by Billy Bustamante; From left to right: Hudson Loverro (Randy), Colton Maurer (Ralphie), Elena Shaddow (Mother) and Chris Hoch (The Old Man).
Photo 2: A Christmas Story: The Musical at Paper Mill Playhouse; Photo by Billy Bustamante; Colton Maurer (Ralphie), center, and the company of A Christmas Story: The Musical.
Photo 3: A Christmas Story: The Musical at Paper Mill Playhouse; Photo by Billy Bustamante; From left to right: Vincenzo Faruolo, Colton Maurer (Ralphie) and Gabriel Reis.