note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Beverly Creasey
Based on stories in humorist Jean Shepard’s hilarious “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash,” A CHRISTMAS STORY has had a life of its own. Thanks to the cheeky l983 film, most of us know about the Indiana kid who desperately wants an official Red Ryder bb gun for Christmas.
This seems to be the season for stage shows which are even more famous films: WHITE CHRISTMAS, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, A CHRISTMAS CAROL and now the Jean Shepard classic (playing through Dec. 16th at the Orpheum Theatre in Foxboro). What makes the stage version of A CHRISTMAS STORY even more charming than the film are the fantasy sequences, when little Ralphie dreams of saving his family cowboy-style, with his brand new carbine action, 200 shot range rifle. Film does those dream sequences so well that they’re not particularly unique or unusual anymore---but on stage, they’re inventive and delightfully surprising, much more so than their celluloid counterparts.
Bay Colony director Dori Bryan gets on target performances, from Jake Davey as the little kid with big dreams and from Paul Warner as the Shepard stand-in who narrates and adds a character from time to time. Warner has one of those mellifluous baritone voices you could listen to all day and he adds just the right tongue-in-cheek wink to his commentary. What’s remarkable about Shepard’s writing is that although it’s specific to the popular culture of the ‘40s and ‘50s, the story is totally accessible sixty years later.
Nathan Lamont and Chrissy McCartney are standouts as Ralphie’s clueless parents. Lamont is quite droll as the “furnace fighting” curmudgeon of a pater familias and McCartney adds warmth as his long suffering, kind hearted, meatloaf baking wife. Julie Lyon has a scene stealing cameo as Ralphie’s prissy third grade teacher and Cameron Seeley has a funny scene (with a nifty sight gag) based on a dare. Charlie Hill is a blustery bully and Anthony Puopolo turns cave dwelling into a science.
Daniel B. Kozar’s marvelous flannel and argyle costumes conjure up old time winters in the Midwest. The whole cast captures the feel of that absurd time in our past when people thought “duck and cover” would protect them from nuclear fallout and that there would always be enough trees to cut down and decorate for Christmas. I’ll bet more than a few parents today yearn for a time before computer games and MP3s were invented. Perhaps eye strain is a lot better than shooting your eye out!