Theatre Review: A Christmas Story: The Musical

Christmas has come early this year with The Arts Club’s latest production, A Christmas Story: The Musical. This new take on a holiday classic is certainly getting Vancouverites ready for the season… even if it is still November.

A Christmas Story is the story of a nine-year-old boy named Ralphie growing up in the 40s, who wants nothing more for Christmas than a Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun. In his quest to convince his parents to purchase one for him he learns about family, growing up, and the world around him in a family classic based on the 1983 film of the same name.

Right off the bat, the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage is decked out in gleaming white, with ceiling-high trees and snow projected on a screen to conjure up a wintry outdoor scene. The sets only improve from there: a full kitchen and living room setup and a classroom of children are only a couple of the versatile, moving pieces to house each scene. The transitions between set pieces are easy and smooth. The most impressive set piece is the department store Santa Claus throne, painted beautifully with working stairs and a slide, all on wheels. A Christmas Story’s set designer, Amir Ofek, clearly had a vision and used it to bring every location to life in vivid detail. Creative lighting complements the excellent sets: everyday scenes are lit simply while others set in Ralphie’s imagination are bright and colourful. The band, too, is spot on, as I’ve come to expect from the Arts Club. The costumes are understated yet impressively accurate, sending everyone on stage all the way back to 1940. Ralphie’s wardrobe of sweater vests is my favourite choice; the pieces fit the character’s dorky nature and match the vest the older, narrating Ralphie wears onstage. Every aspect sets the production up for success.

The cast does not disappoint. With a small group of only twenty performers – nine of them children – you’d think the chorus would lack energy or power, but this one does not. The ensemble energetically portrays a diversity of characters, making each actor entertaining to watch all by themselves. The kid chorus is especially impressive in executing surprisingly challenging material. There are a few minor mistakes in choreography and pitch on a couple of the numbers, but they are handled professionally and I wonder if I am the only one who notices. This isn’t amateur hour; this cast has talent. Meghan Gardiner and Matt Palmer give particularly compelling performances as the Mother and Father (Gardiner very nearly brings tears to my eyes as she sings “Just Like That” to Ralphie), but in all honesty it’s difficult to choose a few performers. All actors, children included, deliver emotionally authentic performances and portray likeable characters throughout the show. Technical and artistic aspects combine and culminate in a thoroughly enjoyable experience sure to get anyone ready for the holiday season.

A Christmas Story: The Musical is playing at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage from November 5th – December 27th. For more information, visit http://artsclub.com/shows/2015-2016/a-christmas-story-the-musical

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