The holidays are upon us, the hustle and bustle in full swing. Our favorite holiday movies are gracing our TV screens, none so favored in my home as A Christmas Story. The one where little Ralphie wishes with all his might for a Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun.
Under the direction of Joe Minutillo, the Gateway Playhouse brings this quirky musical to the beautifully renovated Patchogue Theatre this holiday season.
The 1983 motion picture A Christmas Story became an instant classic. In the movie we are privy to Ralphie’s thoughts, and so I was curious how that would be incorporated into a live musical performance. A Christmas Story, the Musical is set in the 1940s, and radio host Jean Shepherd launches into a semi-autobiographical Christmas story about a boy named Ralphie and his family. Shepherd becomes the voice in Ralphie’s head and his performance is brilliant and compelling. James Lloyd Reynolds, who we last saw as Julian Marsh in Gateway’s 42nd Street, does a fantastic job leading us through the story.
The phrase, “You’ll shoot your eye out” torments poor Ralphie, who despairs over never receiving his prized Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun once his mother throws down that phrase. There’s a tap dance scene with Ralphie’s teacher, Miss Shields (Holly Ann Butler) and it is both hilarious and impressive, with many of the child actors joining the scene, making it a truly delightful spectacle.
Gateway is known for acquiring Broadway-caliber talent and this show is no different. Ralphie is played by James Bernard, an extraordinarily talented 12-year-old who has an remarkable resume, which includes shows like The Sound of Music and To Kill a Mockingbird. Once you hear him sing, it’s clear the kid belongs onstage.
The Old Man, Ralphie’s dad, is played by Benjamin Howes and he portrays the disgruntled, foul-mouthed father to hilarious perfection. His big dance scene with all the leg lamps was so much fun—again with the incredibly talented child actors joining in the fray to the audiences delight. Mother is played by Jennifer Hope Wills, who brings grace to the role. With a songbird voice and a maternal aura, she embodies the role of a wife and mother in the 1940s. Jarod Hirsch plays Ralphie’s little brother Randy, and his portrayal of the character is spot on. You can’t help but laugh out loud as Mother stuffs poor Randy into his snow suit and sends him off to school.
All of your favorite moments from the film are there—the bunny suit, Flick’s unfortunate triple dog dare—with new musical numbers from the brilliant minds of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, recent award winners for their work on Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen and the Oscar-winning film La La Land.
Gateway’s reputation for bringing Broadway to Long Island is no amateur endeavor—the set for A Christmas Story, the Musical is straight from the Broadway production, with many massive moving parts, clever costumes and props, and a cast that is extraordinarily talented.
Whether you are a fan of the movie or not, A Christmas Story, the Musical is hysterical, musical fun for the entire family to enjoy together during the holiday season. The heartwarming message is loud and clear as Shepherd chokes up during his final lines of the show. Beyond all the fuss and materialism that surrounds Christmas, in the end it’s not about what is under the tree, but rather, who is gathered around it with you.
A Christmas Story, the Musical will be at the Patchogue Theatre through December 27. For tickets and information, visit thegateway.org.