“A Christmas Story”- Extraordinary Family Entertainment for Children of All Ages! By John Dwyer
“A Christmas Story” is a film and a stage musical based on the remembrances of radio commentator and author Jean Shepherd. During his long career, a local note : from 1951 – 1953, he was on the midnight show out of Philadelphia on KYW. The film and musical are semi-autobiographical, remembering a Christmas set in the 1940’s. It revolves around a nine year old boy named Ralphie in Hammond, Indiana hoping Santa will bring him a b-b gun for Christmas. Four years almost to the day, Music Mountain mounted this show with much of the same cast and the same director Anna Hentz. It was great back in 2018 and is even better now. The Christmas spirit of good will, in the face of life’s challenges, is the desperately needed antidote to our small hearted partisan bickering. The virtue of kindness and listening with the heart abound as we revisit what it used to mean to be a child mid 20th century.
I am speechless and in awe at the talented lead, Rothe Ripley who plays Ralphie. A natural actor who delivers 100%, his singing and stage presence is undeniable. “Ralphie to the Rescue,” along with his other songs, are testimonials to this young man’s innate talent. Tristan Monaghan, as his younger brother Randy, is adorably sweet and, again, so honest in the moment, he also melts a curmudgeon’s heart. Bill Wier holds the story together as Jean Shepherd, who narrates the different moments leading up to Christmas. Expertly weaving these episodes together, henot only gives us nostalgia for simpler times but makes us all children once again. Bravo!
Louis Palena as “The Old Man” (a.k.a Dad), Molly Chase as Mother, Jaimie Geddes as the teacher Miss Shields, David McCloughan, Jr. as Santa Claus reprise their roles from the 2018 production. Their performances were great then but have grown and are even more beautiful and nuanced now.
A true ensemble show. It is enriched when it is done at such a high professional level but it happens to be your own community. Living in a renowned arts community, where many union professionals live, makes our local theaters uncommonly good. But the added value is when a show is about everyday people and is performed by everyday people. Like a home cooked meal, it is more honest and real. The department store scene before the local store opens is filled with a magic not available in New York. The youngsters dancing is another example of our audience having true pride at kids doing the beautiful work of being kids, albeit in front of a spotlight.
The magic of Christmas is on stage until November 20th, with this extraordinary production. Kudos director, Anna Hentz, musical director Jenna Parrilla Alvino, choreographer and costumer, Jordan Brennan. Tickets are available online.