Beginning as an experiment with The Sound of Music four years ago, live television musicals have once again become an annual holiday tradition.
For every December since 2013, NBC live televised productions of Peter Pan, The Wiz, and Hairspray. While this year’s production was originally scheduled to be Bye Bye Birdie starring Jennifer Lopez, NBC was forced to push the show back a year to accommodate Ms. Lopez’ schedule. As a result, FOX has given us a live television production of A Christmas Story: The Musical; which is ironically the first of these “holiday” telecasts to feature a Christmas theme.
Based on the 2011 Broadway musical, which in turn was based upon the beloved 1983 film, “A Christmas Story Live!” tells the story of young Ralphie Parker, who longs more than anything to receive a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. Unfortunately, his chances of receiving the gift are slim, as nearly everyone he tells his wish to utters the familiar phrase, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” The production stars newcomer Andy Walken (Ralphie), Matthew Broderick (Narrator/Adult Ralphie), Maya Rudolph (Mother), Chris Diamantopoulos (The Old Man), Tyler Wladis (Randy), Jane Krakowski (Miss Shields), Ana Gasteyer (Mrs. Schwartz), Ken Jeong (Tree Salesman/Restaurant Owner), David Alan Grier (Mall Santa), and Fred Armisen (Mall Elf).
While the adult cast is comprised of mostly well-known actors and they all do their job well (save for Broderick’s occasional line-flubs and Rudolph’s “singing”), the younger members of the cast are the true stars of the show. Andy Walken plays young Ralphie with spunk and charisma, ever desperate to achieve his dream of owning a Red Ryder BB gun, all while dodging notorious bullies Scut Farkus (Sacha Carlson) and Grover Dill (Elie Samouhi). There to aid him are his trusted friends Schwartz (Sammy Ramirez), Flick (JJ Batteast), Louise (Abigail Dylan Harrison), Richie (Artyon Celestine), and Esther Jane (Hayley Shukiar). The children are all spectacular in voice and movement, seamlessly working through Sam Davis’s brilliant choreography.
The show’s original songs and score are composed by Tony and Oscar-winning composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who made a splash with last year’s hit musical film, La La Land. The two also recently composed the upcoming musical film, The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman. While some might be hesitant to see such a beloved film converted into a musical, you can rest assured that these songs add even more depth to an already timeless Christmas tale. From the schoolyard ballad, “When You’re A Wimp”, to the tear-jerking finale where we see Adult Ralphie and Young Ralphie meet on the street, the music soars with holiday cheer.
With heartfelt music, cutting-edge cinematography, and several callbacks to the beloved original film, “A Christmas Story Live” is an event not to be missed.