The Arts Club’s production of A Christmas Story: The Musical is like a great big holiday feast, bursting with scrumptious goodness.
The Holiday Table
Based on the 1983 movie, this musical version of one young boy’s dream of the perfect Christmas present hits all of its source material’s iconic moments, while expanding on Ralphie’s colourful daydreams. Under the direction of Valerie Easton, Ralphie’s quest for an “official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle”, has an energy that is unstoppable.
The Main Course
Much of the success of A Christmas Story: The Musical rests on the shoulders of the young man who plays Ralphie, and Easton found some big ones in Valin Shinyei. Marking his Arts Club debut, Shineyei acts, sings and dances his way through any inevitable comparison to the role made famous by Peter Billingsley in the movie, with skill and talent.
Duff MacDonald as the show’s narrator is the glue that holds everything together, with a charming and authoritative delivery to help move the story along.
As the parents to young Ralphie, Meghan Gardiner and Matt Palmer are pitch perfect. Palmer is particularly good here as the foul-mouthed father (don’t worry, no actual swearing takes place), with an endearing quirkiness. Gardiner gets one of the most heartfelt songs with “What a Mother Does” and it gets to the core of this family-friendly musical.
The Cranberry Sauce
As school teacher Miss Shields, Sara-Jeanne Hosie simply shines. A little bit sweet and a whole lot tart, Hosie not only gets to show off her vocal talents, but is star of many of Ralphie’s fantasy sequences.
The Bread and Butter
The adult ensemble is top-notch, called upon to be everything from parents to cowboys to Santa’s elves. Their sense of play is at times astounding.
The Kids Table
The younger ensemble holds their own against their more experienced adult counterparts, and take to Easton’s sometimes dazzling choreography with aplomb. Just wait until you see them hoofing their way through “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out” with Arts Club veteran, Sara-Jeanne Hosie.
Graham Verchere gives a hilarious turn as the young Flick who finds his tongue frozen to a flag pole after a “triple dog dare” from his classmates, and Glen Gordon is equal parts adorable and funny as Ralphie’s younger brother.
The Brussels Sprouts
Of course with any holiday feast comes those items that are not to everyone’s liking. Joseph Robinette’s book at times gets a bit bloated by some of the longer song and dance numbers that serve to emphasis much of what we have just learned, and the culturally insensitive scene at the local Chinese restaurant towards the end continues to be problematic.
The Christmas Pudding
Amir Ofek’s set design moves us seamlessly through the show’s various locales including the family home, all lit by Gerald King’s bright design. Sheila White gives us period appropriate costumes, but with a real whimsy as things delve into Ralphie’s imagination, and the small band under the direction of Danny Balkwill is top notch.
The Tryptophan Effect
A Christmas Story: The Musical is so full of vitality that it is all but impossible to get bored. And even though at times it is a little bloated, like the feeling after the best holiday feast, it is ultimately satisfying.
So loosen your belt, and make room for A Christmas Story: The Musical in your holiday plans.
A Christmas Story: The Musical. Book by Joseph Robinette. Music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. An Arts Club Theatre Company production on stage at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage (2750 Granville St, Vancouver) until December 27. Visit http://artsclub.com for tickets and information.