|Ralphie (Joshua Parecki) can't believe his aunt sent him these pink bunny PJ's for Christmas. With him are, from left, Randy (Antonio Elias), Mother (Gwyneth Price Panos) and The Old Man (Michael Rhone).|
Palo Alto Players is staging a musical version of a perennial favorite holiday film, “A Christmas Story.”
It chronicles the strategies that 9-year-old Ralphie Parker (Joshua Parecki) employs in hopes of getting a longed-for Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas in Hohman, Ind., in 1940. Every time adults learn of his wish, though, they intone, “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out.”
Along the way, he has other adventures involving the rest of his family, his schoolmates and his teacher.
|The Old Man and Ralphie admire the major award.|
One of the most hilarious scenes comes as his father, known as The Old Man (Michael Rhone), enters a contest and wins “A Major Award.” It’s a lamp, but not just any lamp. It’s the leg of a woman in high heels with a light bulb and lampshade on top.
He’s enormously proud of it, but Mother (Gwyneth Price Panos) is appalled. After she breaks it accidentally on purpose, she declares it to be “the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Then there’s Ralphie’s younger brother, Randy (Antonio Elias), who refuses to eat like a normal person. Instead Mother gets him to eat by asking, “How does the little piggy eat?” With that, he lowers his head and gobbles his food with his tongue and mouth.
There are several other memorable scenes. Among them are the time Ralphie’s friend Flick (Neal Sampson) responds to a dare and winds up with his tongue frozen to the flagpole at school.
Then, among others, there are Ralphie’s visit to a curmudgeonly Santa Claus (Joey McDaniel), the outcome of his helping The Old Man fix a flat tire and of course the pink bunny PJs from Aunt Clara, who thinks Ralphie is a 4-year-old girl.
Much of the story is told by Jean Shepherd, the Narrator (Shawn Bender), as it is in the film, which is based on Shepherd’s book, “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash.”
Shepherd grew up in Hammond, Ind., but calls it Hohman. Named after an early settler, it was first called Hohmanville but soon became known as Hammond after another early settler. Other names such as Cleveland Street, where the Parker family lives, and Warren G. Harding School, attended by Ralphie and friends, are real.
Shepherd changed the name of Goldblatt’s, the department store with the Christmas window display and Santa, to Higbee’s. (Full disclosure: I grew up in Hammond.)
Music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, with a book by Joseph Robinette, work quite well in this adaptation of the film.
PAP’s artistic team of director and choreographer Janie Scott, music director Amanda Ku, scenic designer Patrick Klein (the company’s artistic director), costume designer Naomi Arnst and lighting designer Rick Amerson combine to make this a highly enjoyable production.
The only artistic drawback is Brandie Larkin’s too loud sound design. Even after an adjustment during the first act of the Nov. 10 matinee, it was still too loud, especially for the youngsters’ piping voices.
|It's "Ralphie to the Rescue!" as he fantasizes the brave deeds he can do with a Red Ryder BB gun.|
Scott has come up with some show-stopping choreography, especially in “Ralphie to the Rescue!” when he imagines using his Red Ryder BB gun to foil an assortment of villains.
Besides the principals already named, another standout in the large cast is Juliet Green as Miss Shields, Ralphie’s teacher.
In short, it’s great, family-focused fun.
Running just under two and a half hours with one intermission, “A Christmas Story, The Musical” will continue through Nov. 24 at the Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.
For tickets and information, call (650) 329-0891 or visit www.paplayers.org.
Photos by Joyce Goldschmid