It’s all present and accounted for, from the Old Man’s leg lamp to Aunt Clara’s bunny suit; from the flagpole double-dog-dare to the Santa Slide at Higbee’s — to say nothing of that official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle. Only this time it’s an all-singing, all-dancing, live action extravaganza that arrives like an early gift package this Friday, November 11.
Based on the beyond-popular 1983 movie of the same name — itself adapted from the writings of humorist Jean Shepherd (who did a memorable turn as the film’s narrator), A Christmas Story: The Musical makes its first-ever appearance on the local stage as the annual holiday-season offering from Phoenix Productions, the resident non-profit stage company at the venerable Count Basie Theatre.
First produced in 2009 (and transferred to Broadway in 2012), the Benj Pasek-Justin Paul musical surfed the momentum generated by one of the most classic examples of belated success in Hollywood history; a modestly budgeted 1940s period piece that was virtually ignored during its original release, but which snowballed (via home-rental word of mouth) into an ever-so-slightly subversive centerpiece of countless Yuletide get-togethers.
The fact that TBS has run A Christmas Story on 24-hour repeat each of the past several Christmases has indoctrinated pretty much everyone in America to the charms of the fun film (from the director of Porky’s, among other things) — but if you can’t possibly wait for December 25 or even December 1, the Phoenix folks have lots to love over the next couple of weekends.
Starring under the direction of Phoenix regular Todd Aikens are Tyler Sautner (pictured) as Ralphie, the growing kid living in 1940s Indiana who hasn’t quite outgrown his excitement over “lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas, upon which the entire kid year revolved.” Featured are Jennifer Grasso as Ralphie’s Mother and Joe Caruso as the Old Man, with Jack Sweeney rounding out the family as Randy, Ralphie’s brother. Chris Lorenc and Chad Fruscione are the two bullies Scut Farcus and Grover Dill, while Mark Regan appears as the department store Santa, with Hayley Miller as his Head Elf.
Mikayla Petrilla leads the classroom as the stern yet dynamic teacher Miss Shields, with Ralphie’s classmates including Carl Smith as Flick, David Livingston as Schwartz, Sarah Anne Coleman as Esther Jane, and Taylor Carpinello as Mary Beth. Red Bank locals should watch for some familiar young faces in the Classroom Kids ensemble, including Matthew Blankley, Grace Riddle, and Faith King.
Curtain times for A Christmas Story: The Musical are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. (plus Sunday matinees at 3 p.m.) through November 20. Take it here for tickets ($22-$32) to any of the six scheduled performances — then keep it tuned to redbankgreen for news on the next season of musical entertainments from the Phoenix factory.