Talk about a crowd-pleaser. A CHRISTMAS STORY – THE MUSICAL, which has a week-long run at the Aronoff Center, brought out the masses who reacted to literally every single moment from the classic movie through the first act. (I left at intermission; early morning work assignment tomorrow.) All those moments you remember are there, sometimes word for word – which the audience sometimes recited along with the actors. At times I thought I was at some sort of holiday Rocky Horror show. (Have I ever told you how much I would not enjoy attending an audience-participation version of Rocky Horror? It’s true about pretty much any other show, too.)
I did enjoy the performance of Tristan Klaphake as “Ralphie;” he was natural and a good vocalist, especially for his age. Sara Zoe Budnik as “Mother” does a nice job, with her take on the long-suffering 50’s housewife. Others in the cast, though, played it over-the-top and lost the subtle charm of the film and Jean Shepherd’s pleasantly humorous narration. However, when you take source material like this (I memorized the movie when I was 11 or 12, before it was the audience-favorite that it is today), it’s hard to not compare.
I liked the set pieces, especially the house. Costumes were fun, props were great, and overall this is a nice production. The lighting, though, was overdone. It felt like someone got a new toy and wanted to see what all they could do with it.
But no one in this crowd was there for the lighting, especially this opening night audience. They were there to watch a classic piece of Americana brought to life. And there’s so much life. Big, bold musical numbers like “Ralphie to the Rescue” and “A Major Award” delight. I’m excited to watch the live musical broadcast version of this show on Fox on Sunday, December 17th in the quiet confines of my living room. But while it’s in town, you should go see it in person.
A CHRISTMAS STORY – THE MUSICAL runs through December 10th at the Aronoff Center in downtown Cincinnati. Tickets and more information is available here.