A more dazzling display of heart-warming family entertainment and memories may not be found this Christmas Season than Charm City Players’ A Christmas Story, The Musical. With deft direction by Stephen Napp and snazzy choreography by Jason M. Kimmell, A Christmas Story, The Musical evokes childhood memories of Christmas pasts.
Based on the perennial Warner Brothers film written by Jean Shepherd, A Christmas Story, The Musical, centers on a boy named Ralphie Parker’s quest for a special Christmas gift: a Red Ryder BB gun. This excellent musical version features over 20 songs and musical direction by Kathryn Weaver and musical supervision by Nathan Scavilla.
A star of the show is the wonder-inspiring set, which offered a doll-house-like slice of a Midwestern Victorian-style home, complete with steps that ran left to right toward Ralphie’s bedroom. Napp, Annmarie Pallanck and Eric Depew’s Scenic Design was spot-on.
Kimmell and Tap Choreographer India Palmer’s work was most evident in musical numbers such as “A Major Award,” which featured ladies tap-dancing in lamp-shade dresses (designed by Costumier Designer Tara Hebert) and “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out” (which featured ladies in 1920s “flapper” dresses).
There are a plethora of performances to enjoy in this show. I loved the dynamic and vivacious B. Thomas Rinaldi as The Old Man, Ralphie’s father. Rinaldi brought an additional spice to his role (including his character’s penchant for creative cursing) and had fun singing and dancing in musical numbers such as “The Genius of Cleveland Street” and “A Major Award.”
Charm City Players veteran James Gilbert magnificently played the adult Ralphie, as Narrator, conveying all the triumphs and disappointments of little Ralphie’s life. Napp cleverly integrated his Narrator physically into scenes with the Parkers as an invisible-to-them-visible-to-you character.
The number “Ralphie to the Rescue,” which featured Western vignettes, can-can girls and desperadoes, was a chance for Maxwell Eitzmann to excel as Ralphie. Eitzmann also performed well in “An Opening.”
“What a Mother Does” featured a good blend of acting and singing by Christina Napp as Mother. Napp also soloed in “Just Like That.”
Comically intense was the best way to describe Melissa Ann Martin’s performance as school teacher Miss Shields. She brought verve and enjoyment to “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out.” Asher Davis and Caden Wise did good work as the shady Scut Farkus and Flick respectively. Liam Hamilton played the hapless school kid Schwartz with an air of innocence. Bradley Eastham got to say the unforgettable line as Santa to Ralphie at Higbee’s Department Store: ”Ho, ho, hohhh!”
The ensemble excelled with “Higbee’s Window” and “A Christmas Story.” The ensemble included Eastham, Herbert, Kelsey Albert, Patricia Anderson, Damian Briscoe, Valerie Foxburrow, Monique Erdos-Gertner, Emmie Grant, Isabella Huettner, Ellie Killian, Kellie Podsednik, Lewis Obrect, Sydney Randall, Brooke Rainville, Randy Weber, and Bridgette Yee-McIntyre.
The marvelous children’s ensemble included Lily Anderson, Noah Anderson, Nina Brothers, Reese Bruning, Carmen Collins, Alex Enrique, Desmond Foxburrow, Gabrielle Gertner, Lilian Gilbert, Liam Lange, Sadie Lange, Soren Lange, Connor McIntyre, Jordan Ramirez, Alana Schriefer, Victoria Shats, Clara Thiessen, Ada Vong, Ray-Nyizah Waller-Jones, Eden Walter, and Lyla Walter.
Scenic Artists Christina Davis, Pallanck and Jen Walter brought many props to the stage, including the World-famous (as seen in the movie) leg lamp prop. I was impressed by the vintage radio and phone. I loved the chair-desks used in the Warren G. Harding Elementary School classroom scene; the family Oldsmobile was adequate (Where were the glass headlights?)
Herbert did a marvelous job overall with costumes, including the iconic and vintage maroon snowsuit worn by Ralphie’s brother Randy (Luke Depew). Dance Captain Maia Vong (who also played Mary Beth) kept the dance moves crisp.
At times the music overtook singing voices, and the acoustics featured a slight echo, swallowing some lines. Weaver and Scavilla’s orchestra played behind the upstage curtain. Napp had his set far upstage, leaving a vast amount of floor space.
Bring the family to A Christmas Story, The Musical. It will transport you and yours to a Christmas wonderland.
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
A Christmas Story, The Musical plays through November 25, 2018, at Charm City Players performing at The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Auditorium in Mercy High School – 1300 East Northern Parkway, in Baltimore, MD 21239. For tickets, go to the box office or go online.