Scoot: A Review of “A Christmas Story – the Musical”

Christmas lights from a stage
Photo credit Muenz/Getty Images

“A Christmas Story” is the #1 all-time favorite Christmas movie in America, according to a recent survey.

“A Christmas Story” is the tale of young Ralphie Parker and his one Christmas wish of getting a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle for Christmas. Set in 1940, the movie was released in 1983, but the style of the film makes it appear as if it always was a vintage holiday movie. “A Christmas Story” has become such an iconic movie that the cable network TBS has been airing a 24-hour marathon of it every Christmas since1997.

The beloved story of Ralphie and his quest for the Red Ryder BB gun is now “A Christmas Story – the Musical” and is currently touring and playing at the Saenger Theater in downtown New Orleans now through Sunday, December 22.

“A Christmas Story – the Musical” does a brilliant job of capturing the essence of the movie, but it is helpful if you have seen the movie before seeing the play. It is a musical; but there is a lot of dialogue, especially from a grown Ralphie who appears on stage and in many scenes narrating the story from Ralphie’s perspective.

Christopher Swan is so perfect in his role as the grown-up Ralphie that you can’t image anyone else playing that part, and at no point do you think there’s something missing from the narrator of the movie.

Tommy Druhan and Ian Shaw alternate as Ralphie, and both are accomplished young singers who capture the Ralphie we all know from the movie. Kudos to the entire cast of “A Christmas Story – the Musical,” especially the many children that sing and dance and act in the play. The choreographed scenes of the young actors tap dancing are stunning and inspired applause to erupt in the audience at times before the scenes ended.

The musical includes all the important and memorable scenes from the movie, such as the sexy leg lamp prize won by Ralphie’s father, the kid’s tongue stuck to the frozen metal pole outside the school, the pink bunny suit Ralphie gets for Christmas, Ralphie going “postal” on Farkus - the neighborhood bully - and even the Chinese restaurant scene at the end of the story. And yes, the head is chopped off the Chinese Christmas duck after it is presented at the table. There was even the delicate handling of Ralphie’s use of the F-bomb during the flat tire incident. And there were a couple of adult-oriented jokes that entertained the adults without causing kids in the audience to ask uncomfortable questions.

There were even two large dogs on the stage representing the dogs that constantly harassed Ralphie’s father and got into the house to eat the turkey, the incident which forced the family to find the only restaurant opened on Christmas Eve – the Chinese restaurant.

I was pleased that the music did not pander to political correctness by replacing the Red Ryder BB gun with a water gun or no gun at all, and the music did a good job of presenting the effects of Ralphie shooting the gun and having the BB ricochet and hit him in the eye.

Sound effects were used perfectly, and the kids in the play were good at reacting to the sound effects.

“A Christmas Story – the Musical” was a wonderful experience and is great for the adults that appreciate the movie as a holiday classic and kids who may have just be introduced to “A Christmas Story.” The only criticism I had of the musical was the fantasy scenes, at times, seemed long and distracting and did not translate on stage as well as they did in the movie.  That is no reason to pass on seeing the musical on stage at the Saenger, however.

And, yes, Ralphie did get his Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model BB gun; and looking back, he realized that his parents’ concern that he would “shoot his eye out” was real and almost happened, leaving Ralphie to lament that parents love their kids and that’s why they tell them not to do things that might endanger their lives.

The musical did give me a new appreciation of the message of “A Christmas Story” that I did not fully appreciate in the movie. At the Chinese restaurant, after so much had gone wrong – the leg lamp broke, Ralphie dropped the F-bomb, Ralphie got into a fight, the turkey was mauled by dogs and the family had to resort to having Christmas Eve dinner in a Chinese restaurant that was empty, accentuating that everyone else was enjoying Christmas Eve at home – mother and father found something positive that because of all that had gone wrong – they had a story to tell – A Christmas Story!