Ralphie Parker sings … and dances … and wishes as much as ever to find a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle BB gun under the tree on December 25 in A Christmas Story: The Musical, the holiday season’s most tuneful treat for kids and adults of all ages up Simi Valley way.

Like the 1983 cinematic perennial on which it is based, the 2012 Best Musical Tony nominee introduces us to characters made famous decades earlier by humorous Jean Shepherd.

There’s preteen Ralphie (Patrick Geringer), his eyes almost as wide with Christmas cheer as his glasses are huge; Ralphie’s kid brother Randy (Lucas Panczel), bundled up against the winter chill like nobody’s business; his best besties Schwartz (Brooke N. Bradley) and Flick (Nico Ridino), the latter of whose tongue has an unfortunate triple-dog-dare-you encounter with a frozen flag pole; and the bullies who make their life a living heck (Oliver Anderson and Nicholas Davila-Shaw as Scut Farkus and Grover Dill).

At home, The Old Man (Kevin Ellis) still rages about family furnace, battles neighborhood hounds, and exults when informed he’s won a leggy “major award” while Mother (Megan Ruble) does her best to support her irascible spouse, give her boys maternal love and guidance, and get Randy to eat his meatloaf, even if it means doing it piggy-style.

At school, Miss Shields (Alissa Horner) still does her best to control her rambunctious pupils, believes that “guilt is far worse than any punishment” she might dole out (as if), and insists on proper margins in the “themes” she assigns.

Joseph Robinette’s Tony-nominated book manages to include virtually every one of the bits that have made the movie a Christmas tradition while leaving room for 2017 Oscar winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s clever, catchy score, songs that nabbed the duo their first Tony nomination before Dear Evan Hanson did the trick.

Will Shupe directs for Actors’ Repertory Theatre Of Simi with obvious affection for his source material while still allowing cast members their own takes on characters created by Shepherd in his 1966 novel In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash.

Simi Valley favorite Austin Robert Miller narrates as Shepherd himself while looking enough like a taller, lankier Geringer (a terrific singer/actor with a confidence and stage presence that belies his twelve years) to make us believe he’s Ralph Parker all grown up.

  Ellis harrumphs and blusters to do Darren McGavin proud while vocalizing up a storm, Ruble could not make for a more loving, supportive Mother (and sings like an angel to boot), and dance captain Horner makes Miss Shields the teacher every child wishes they’d had in addition to tapping like nobody’s business in the showstopping “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out,” just one of multiple dance numbers that choreographer Becky Castells has tailored to her cast’s talents and abilities.

Panczel’s adorable Randy proves one of the production’s top tappers not once but twice, and Bradley, Anderson, and Davila-Shaw are top-notch too as are their fellow child performers Keira Acord (Esther Jane), Brooklynn Garcia, Sophie Rubin (Mary Beth), and Matthew Swanson.

Paige Barrella, Ryan Bradley (Santa Claus), Chris Carnicelli, Audrey Fischer (Specialty Tap Dancer), John Manahan, Malissa Marlow, Caitlyn Rose Massey (Mrs. Schwartz), Grant Measures, and Nicole Spadaro execute multiple adult roles, with special snaps to the grownups and kids who dance in “The Genius On Cleveland Street,” “Ralphie To The Rescue,” and “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out.”

Music director Matt Park gets top marks for cast vocals and harmonies and conducts a live orchestra whose weak horn section is mostly conspicuous in the “Overture” and any entirely instrumental passages. Seth Kamenow scores high marks for his live sound mix.

Shupe’s scenic design shows you don’t need a big budget to make a show look classy, particularly when you’ve got Eunice Sanchez’s pitch-perfect props decorating the set and Sasha Venola’s vibrant lighting making it look even more colorful.

Lori Lee’s costumes are more mid-20th-century than 1940-specific, but they look fabulous as do Luis Ramirez’s period wigs, and sound designer Kevin Kahm’s effects (dogs barking, lamps crashing, etc.) merit kudos as well.

A Christmas Story: The Musical is produced by Jan Glasband. Kimberly Klley is production manager, Megan Tisler is production stage manager, and Dean Foster is assistant stage manager.

I was late in discovering A Christmas Story but now I can’t get enough of Ralphie and his family and friends. A Christmas Story: The Musical more than does justice to its source material, and Actors’ Repertory Of Simi gets just about everything right. You’ll shoot your eye out with Christmas glee.

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Actors Repertory Theatre Of Simi, Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3050 Los Angeles Avenue, Simi Valley.

–Steven Stanley
December 10, 2017


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