Monday, December 8, 2014

10 Reasons Why You Need to See "A Christmas Story" Now

Here's why A Christmas Story at the Ordway needs to be your holiday show this year:

10.  The 1983 movie, starring Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin, is a holiday tradition in many homes (thanks to yearly marathons on TBS). From "You'll shoot your eye out!" to "I can't put my arms down!" every moment of this film is ingrained in our hearts. And now, it's a musical! And it's a good one, with words and music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (who also composed the recent critical fave Dogfight, as well as songs for NBC's Smash.)

9. It's a local production! YAY! This Ordway production, directed and choreographed by James Rocco and Sharon Halley, employs tons of local actors, stagehands, set builders, box office staff, ushers and elves. Support your local theater professionals!

8.  The set, built by Penumbra Theatre's scene shop, feel substantial and evokes the time period perfectly. Refreshingly, projections were kept to a bare minimum, a rarity in today's big theater productions. (I was a little worried about Ralphie on that top bunk bed, but he's a professional; he'll be fine.)

7.  Gorgeous costumes show the time period and bring to mind our own wintery weather. I especially enjoyed that all the kids had strings on their hand-knit mittens. I totally had those!

6.  Lovely score performed by a full 18-piece orchestra and sung beautifully by the entire cast. You gotta love a big chorus that really fills the stage and the theater.

5. Adorable child actors who are cute without being cloying. They sing like children, not like American Idol contestants. Jake Goodman builds on the film's Ralphie Parker, creating wonderful moments all his own. James Ciccarelle is adorable as younger brother Randy, and the boys have a nice fraternal chemistry. But all of the kids are wonderful, whether cowering from bullies or tap-dancing their hearts out.

4. Erin Schwab. Erin. Freaking. Schwab. If the rest of the show were not as consistently fabulous, she would have stolen the show as the teacher, Miss Shields. It's wonderful to see her shine in a role that lets her be the exasperated adult as well as a femme fatale.

3. Can I just say? I see a lot of theater, and I am used to seeing a stage filled with white actors, with a few actors of color in the back row. I love the racially diverse ensemble, and I especially love that the actors of color were not all paired off together. Stage families were not strictly divided along color lines, displaying a casual racial diversity that is rare and refreshing. Yes. Please. More of that.

2. Casting Director Reid Harmsen has done a great job of putting together a mix of local and national talent.  Dieter Bierbrauer and Billie Wildrick are funny and touching as Ralphie's parents--boots that are a challenge to fill. Gary Briggle is a wonderfully understated Jean Shepherd, observing and participating in the story. The ensemble is loaded with MNTheaterLove faves, including Randy Schmeling, Austene Van, Suzie Juul, Aja Parham, Kersten Rodau, Michael Gruber, Jennifer Eckes, Carl Schoenborn, Rudolph Searles III, Tony Vierling and Linda Talcott Lee and many, many more.

1. A Christmas Story is a delightful holiday treat for the whole family.  You should buy tickets and go see it RIGHT NOW. The show runs through December 28, so hurry up! (Seriously. Support your local theater!)