“A Christmas Story: The Musical” marries holiday cheer with high-energy daydreams


“A Christmas Story: The Musical” is an earnest and fanciful adaptation of the 1983 film that’s sure to put anyone into the holiday spirit. Photo courtesy John Vitti.

Marta Hill, editor-in-chief

“A Christmas Story: The Musical” is an earnest and fanciful adaptation of the 1983 film of the same name that’s sure to put anyone, even a college student in the midst of finals, into the holiday spirit. The national tour of the show, with music by the same songwriting team as the renowned musicals “Dear Evan Hansen” and “La La Land,” runs at the Boch Center’s Wang Theater through Dec. 19.

The show follows a young Ralphie Parker as he mischievously and devotedly schemes his way to the Christmas gift of his dreams: an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. The 18-song production is narrated by an older Ralphie reminiscing on his childhood. The audience witnesses the disparity between the older and wiser Ralphie who hosts his own radio show, and the younger, air-rifle-obsessed kid who gets caught up in the magic of Christmas.

Despite his parents’ insistence that he will shoot his eye out if he gets the rifle, Ralphie spends weeks trying his best to convince every adult in his life that it’s a good idea to get the toy. In one elaborate song, “Ralphie to the Rescue,” he imagines a complicated Western-themed scenario in which only he, armed with a model air rifle, can swoop in to save whoever is in danger. Throughout this scene, it seemed that every 30 seconds a new batch of actors ran on stage bringing with them an entirely different situation and setting, leaving the audience consistently engaged and stimulated.

Though much of “A Christmas Story: The Musical” vigorously plays on Ralphie’s imagination, it also displays many real life elements. Set in the 1940s in Indiana, it references the effects of the Great Depression and shows Ralphie and his brother coping with his parents arguing. These moments of reality bring what is otherwise an overwhelming and chaotic back closer to home. It makes their family seem relatable, even if just for a few minutes before the next dance number. 

 One of the loudest cheers of the night erupted after a tap number performed by Ralphie’s class and their teacher, Miss Shields. In a dramatic departure from her day-time teaching disposition, Miss Shields dons a red dress and sparkly tap shoes for “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out.” The fast-paced piece starts with the school bullies making fun of Ralphie but quickly moves into an elaborately choreographed piece centered on Miss Shields. 

The synchronized tap number with a plethora of sparkling costumes is a spectacle in its own right, but the real star of the number is the cast’s tap specialist, played by Josiah Smothers. He embarks on an extended tap solo with no musical accompaniment — an ambitious feat for a 12-year-old. The entire five-minute-long number was completely unexpected after a normal school scene but kept the audience on their toes. 

The movie that the musical is based on has long been described as cynical, rather than the heartwarming stories that are a staple of this time of year. The show incorporates many of those elements — Ralphie’s grumpy father, the constantly-breaking furnace and the school bullies to name a few — but ends on a more heartfelt note. It concludes with the narrator giving a touching speech about the meaning of family, and it’s the closest the show gets to being a tear-jerker. 

The 30-person cast (plus two adorable dogs) is pretty evenly split between children and adults. With a runtime of around 2 1/2 hours, “A Christmas Story: The Musical” caters to an audience of all ages, will keep newcomers guessing at every turn and for those familiar with the movie, it is an intriguing departure from the original.