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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 12, 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 50
I double dog dare you NOT to miss A Christmas Story
Arts & Entertainment
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I double dog dare you NOT to miss A Christmas Story

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

A CHRISTMAS STORY,
THE MUSICAL
5TH AVENUE THEATRE
Through December 30


A Christmas Story is perhaps one of the most beloved, non-animated television specials of the holiday season. It's a fun movie that started off slow but grew in popularity until rating well enough to become a TBS-24-hour-Broadcast-Special. And for good reason. The story is delightful and anyone who (on any occasion) ever desperately wanted that 'special gift,' facing defeat at every turn, can identify with the plights and passions of its young hero. The 5th Avenue Theatre currently presents a return engagement of its Broadway premier, A Christmas Story, the musical.

The storyline should be familiar, but if you are about to see it for the first time, I'm envious of your experience. Set in the Americana of the 1950s in Middle America, nine-year old Ralphie Parker wants one thing, and one thing only for Christmas: a 'Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle, with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time.' Ralphie tries to let his desires be known, but finds distraction at every turn by the taunting cry of 'You'll shoot your eye out!' His father has no time to notice between his constant frustration with the neighbor's howling dogs and his obsession with a unique prize he's won from a contest. Ralphie's mother is typical mid-American, trying to get the house in order for the holidays with all the cooking and preparations, as well as keeping an eye on Ralphie's younger brother. School is no help as Ralphie tries to avoid the dreaded local bully, Scut Farkus. Ralphie's last chance is a desperate attempt to reach Santa and plead his case.

To say this is a family show is an understatement. There's a gaggle of children in the show including the lead role, but none of them ever comes across as precocious or scene stealing. Mark Jeffrey James Weber plays Ralphie, the hopeful boy at the center of the story. His eagerness is contagious and the audience cheers the young boy on from the very beginning. His voice (as are all the voices of the younger thespians on stage) is in good form and easily covers the lyrics of the songs. Jessica Skerritt plays Mother, bringing an outer appearance of naïve charm to the role. There's a natural sweetness to her presence and her singing voice, which makes it easy for the audience to identify with her character, and empathize with the challenges of running a household and being the perfect American House Wife. The Old Man is played by Dane Stokinger, which he does very well. From his grumpy posture, to his sneaking a taste of turkey, to the avoidance of The Bumpus Hounds, he embellishes the role in every way. The audience immediately warms to the curmudgeon when he starts to yell at the furnace in his muffled 'Ratzer-blastin', frizzle-toting' kind of made up language allowing the audience to laugh alongside the struggles the man faces. In short, the entire cast is excellent and there's very little not to enjoy about this presentation.

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul wrote the music and lyrics with a book by Joseph Robinette. Pasek and Paul have also written the musical Dogfight as well as songs that appeared on TV's 'SMASH.' The show's songs all fit into the Americana era and all promote the story as songs in a musical ought to.

A Christmas Story is a very enjoyable show. It's something that you can enjoy with or without a family member, with or without a child. There's something for all to identify with and something that speaks to all of us. Perhaps this is one of the reasons it's become a classic. If you think you've seen A Christmas Story, the musical when it premiered in 2010, there are subtle nuances in this production (none that I can put my finger on or list) that just seem to make this version better. And the musical version is still a novelty to where it delights at every turn.

Go see A Christmas Story. It is one of the best holiday shows Seattle has to currently offer. In fact - I TRIPLE dog dare you not to miss it!



A Christmas Story is based on the short story of Jean Shepherd, 'In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.' Starting off as a radio show, the story was released in 1983 as a full-featured film with little fanfare. Becoming lost among the shuffle of holiday movies, it began new life when Turner Classic Television began running it in a 24-hour marathon loop to compete with the constant showing of It's A Wonderful Life.

In 2009 Kansas City Repertory Theatre (Missouri) presented the premiere of the musical with music and lyrics by Scott Davenport Richards. Going through a complete renovation with a new score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, A Christmas Story reopened with its debut on December 9, 2010 at Seattle's own 5th Avenue Theatre.

A Christmas Story, the musical made its Broadway debut in November of 2012 and through a special arrangement played through the end of the year. It was nominated for three Tony Awards including Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Musical of the 2012 Season.

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I double dog dare you NOT to miss A Christmas Story
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