“A Christmas Story” by Croswell Opera House, a heartwarming production
ADRIAN – Last Christmas season, as the pandemic gave me time that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, I decided to watch some of those holiday movies that I had never seen or that I didn’t see. haven’t seen them for a long time.
“A Christmas Story” belonged to the latter category. I first saw it a long time ago and truthfully thought it was quite cute, but just didn’t understand the popularity that led to things like 24 hour marathons at television.
But looking at it last year, it occurred to me that this was exactly the kind of sweetly funny, nostalgic trip to a simpler time that we all needed. And still do.
Now, because it’s true that pretty much every holiday (or children’s) movie apparently becomes a musical if you just wait long enough, the idea of ”A Christmas Story” to get this treatment. may appear to be even cruder commercialism.
But whatever the motive of the people coming up with the idea for the musical, the point is, luckily the creative team of Joseph Robinette (book) and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (lyrics) put the story on stage. without losing anything of his heart. and charm.
Adding songs doesn’t take anything away, and while there are of course a lot of numbers where all of a sudden the stage is full of people singing and dancing, none of this seems overdone in terms of the storyline. .
Those bigger numbers, which in most cases are there to move the plot forward by showing Ralphie’s musings around his coveted Red Ryder BB rifle, are really funny. “Ralphie to the Rescue,” showing all the heroic things he would do if gifted with the said weapon, is one of the show’s musical highlights.
And in a story where the famous floor lamp plays an important role, the fact that the writers included a number where there is a (wait for it …) a kick line of a whole series of such lamps is perfectly fine. logic. On the other hand, I’m not sure exactly why a young boy would have dreamed of a Prohibition-era sweatshop, as another issue shows, but okay.
Kudos to the writers, too, for resisting the urge to wrap up the show with a huge production number; the closing song, “A Christmas Story,” is as perfect an ending as it gets – calm, sentimental, all family, until, of course, the encore brings the entire cast onto stage.
With the exception of forgetting the story of the “Little Orphan Annie” decoder decoder and the scene in the Christmas tree lot (although the car ride associated with the flat tire incident is there. ), the plot roughly matches that of the film. And all the characters you’d expect are there, with the addition of a role on stage rather than a voiceover for Jean, the narrator.
There’s even a “Bumpus hound” – although several dogs are mentioned and heard off the stage via sound effects, only one makes an appearance on stage, which is undoubtedly wise for a stage show.
Croswell’s production, beautifully directed and choreographed by Deb Calabrese, features a top-notch cast.
12-year-old Reed Schwieterman, who plays Ralphie, may be in his first role in Croswell but it certainly doesn’t sound like it, as he seems completely at ease on his stage and is natural for the role. The Old Man and the Mother are played by longtime Croswell cast Steven Kiss and Kyrie Crist, and not only is it great to see them again in a show, but they’re perfect in those roles and pair well.
A good thing about this musical version is that it fleshed out the parent characters a bit more. In just one example of this, Kiss is just too funny as he struts around on stage after winning his “Major Award” – which of course turns out to be the Leg Lamp. And one of the things about this show is that if you know the story, you know exactly what comes out of the box when it comes, and yet the scene is still so funny.
As for the mother, Crist infuses her with warmth and good humor as her character deals with her stubborn husband and two boys, one of whom, Randy (played perfectly by Garrett Ensign), is quite demanding. His portrayal of the mother, who luckily gets some really nice songs about her role in the family, is perfect.
Bill McCloskey was another perfect casting choice as narrator Jean, who watches the action and comments on it. He does a spectacular job in what becomes, in this musical version, a really major role; in fact, it sometimes seems like the writers put in a little TOO MUCH storytelling and it gets in a bit of an embarrassment, but McCloskey carries it all on a T.
The supporting cast – Philip Buechele-Sloan as Schwartz, Tyler Roan as Flick, Jonathon Comiskey as Farkus the Tyrant, Gage Sterling as his sidekick Grover, Katelyn Lesle Levering as Miss Shields, Sophia Bernard as Esther Jane, Isabelle Medley as Mary Beth, Chris Stack as Santa and Emily Smith as Mrs. Schwartz – all do a great job.
And so, with one exception on opening night, Brutus Haines-Richardson played the role of the Bumpus Hound. When it came to chasing the old man across the stage on multiple occasions, Brutus did his job perfectly, but his real highlight – involving the Christmas turkey – required, well, a bit of coaxing to get him up on set, and the whole scene didn’t work. t works quite as expected. This is live theater, especially when it comes to real animals.
Most of the opening night production went off without too many hitches, aside from this scene and the one with the leg lamp kicking line, where unfortunately some of the lamps lost their bulbs as they went. and as the number lit up.
Calabrese’s staging and choreography add a lot to the staging; it makes the show quick and witty, and the choreography is fun even if the kids don’t necessarily do everything in sync as they should. The orchestra led by Raymond Novak does a great job and Pam Krage’s costumes are perfect.
Dave Nelms’ stage design works well and the house itself looks great; one thing that seems to be missing, however, involves the restaurant in the penultimate scene. If you didn’t know it was supposed to be a Chinese restaurant, you wouldn’t know from the decor itself.
That said, I’m glad that the truly stereotypical portrayal of restaurant staff trying to sing Christmas music with Chinese accents has been left out of this version.
If you’re a fan of “The Christmas Story”, and probably even if you aren’t, you’ll greatly enjoy Croswell’s production of this classic story, which runs through December 12th. The show itself is heartwarming and very funny, with a lot of humor and longing for a more innocent age, and in the hands of this very good cast and production team, Croswell’s interpretation certainly gives the story all the life and the heart it deserves.
If you are going to
WHAT: “A Christmas Story: The Musical”
WHEN: Today, December 3-5, December 9-12
O: Croswell Opera House, 129 E. Maumee St., Adrian
TICKETS: $ 20 to $ 40 adults, $ 15 to $ 25 students
HOW TO ORDER: Online at croswell.org or by calling 517-264-7469
NOTE: All customers are required to wear face masks or face shields