It doesn’t matter whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie (it isn’t, by the by, from Bruce Willis’ own lips during the only funny moment of his Comedy Central roast). Or how many times you’ve experienced a miracle on a certain street about eight blocks from 42nd. Or if you think life is, in fact, wonderful. The most divisive Christmas movie debate in the history of Christmas, movies and debate is, beyond a bearded, bowl-full-of-jelly-bellied shadow of a doubt, whether A Christmas Story sits atop the heap of holiday classics or is merely cult-flick counterprogramming that no one could love other than ironically.
How you answer that question will likely determine whether you’ll love or loathe A Christmas Story: The Musical. Because, let’s face it, if you already detest the 1983 Hollywood source material then the 2012 Broadway adaptation is just as likely to roast your chestnuts. In contrast, if you wait with candy cane-baited breath every year for the 24-hour A Christmas Story marathon on TV, then prepare to be holly and/or jolly, because A Christmas Story: The Musical remains slavishly faithful to the original’s story beats while marrying them to musical numbers written by the songwriting team responsible for the standout tunes in Dear Evan Hansen and La La Land.
It’s the 1940s in Indiana, and young Ralphie Parker (Ned Swartz or Miles Shaw) wants an official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle for Christmas. As only a preteen can be, he’s obsessed with what he sees as the greatest Christmas present ever. The problem is that his mother (Joanie Brosseau-Rubald) thinks BB guns are dangerous. She’s sure that if Ralphie gets one he’ll shoot his eye out.
While Ralphie explores, increasingly desperately, all the ways he might get past the “classic mother-BB gun block,” the days leading up to Christmas fly by, each with its own hilarious, true-to-life moments. When Ralphie’s father (Scott Beyette) isn’t battling his frozen Oldsmobile or duking it out with the family’s furnace, he’s entering crossword contests in a thinly veiled effort to bolster his self-esteem. When the Old Man finally wins a “major award,” it arrives in a form that has become one of the most enduring pop culture images of the past 35 years… the Leg Lamp.
Randy (Markus Hollekim or Hayden McDonald), Ralphie’s little brother, refuses to eat and winds up a turtle on his back in his Michelin Man snowsuit. Flick (Trenton Fano or Quin Solley) gets his tongue stuck to the frozen flagpole after Schwartz (Brody Lineweaver or Ayden Edgar) triple dog dares him. Ralphie doesn’t say “fudge” when the lug nuts go flying as he’s helping his dad change a flat tire. The Scut Farkus Affair plays out as expected. Ralphie entreats Santa. The bunny suit makes an appearance, and Ralphie’s family is once again introduced to Chinese turkey.
The biggest departure from the film version is that the adult Ralphie narrating the story as he reminisces is present on stage in the musical version. Wayne Kennedy gets the honor, and his presence — even if just at the periphery of a scene — enlivens the proceedings immeasurably. He delivers some of the most memorable lines from the movie with just the right mix of reverence and quirky playfulness.
The always dependable BDT Stage has outdone itself with A Christmas Story: The Musical. Perhaps it’s the shorter-than-usual run, but every member of the cast seems abuzz with excitement to be putting on this show. Whatever eggnog-flavored Kool-Aid director Scott Beyette has his actors drinking, it’s working. The set, in particular, astounds (thank you, Amy Campion). Using just a few movable constructions, the crew quickly and seamlessly transitions from the Parker house to the elementary school to Higbee’s department store and back again. The Parkers even take multiple car rides assisted by the BDT Stage’s rotating stage.
If you’re a fan of A Christmas Story then the BDT Stage’s A Christmas Story: The Musical is sure as sugarplums a must-see. Even if you’d rather shoot your eye out than watch the movie again this year, you may be surprised at just how much you enjoy the musical adaptation. There’s only one way to find out. Fa, ra, ra, ra ra!
On the Bill: A Christmas Story: The Musical. BDT Stage, 5501 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder. Tickets are $45 and up. Through Jan. 5. bdtstage.com