Broadway Series South and Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy, which worked with the North Carolina Theatre and Barton College to produce a rib-tickling rendition of A Christmas Story for the 2010 season, may well have started a new Triangle tradition. Indeed, “You’ll shoot your eye out” may become as familiar a Yuletide slogan in these parts as “Bah! Humbug!” and “The glass slipper fits!”
Based on the late Jean Shepherd’s amusing memories from his Depression-era boyhood in Hohman, Indiana, circa 1938, and the screenplay for the 1983 motion picture that Shepherd co-authored with Leigh Brown and director Bob Clark, Philip Grecian’s vivacious 2000 stage adaptation of A Christmas Story chronicles the seemingly hopeless quest of nine-year-old Ralphie Parker (played in the current production by sixth-grader Langdon Ogburn) to convince Mother (Andrea Schulz Twiss) and the Old Man (Bill Yates, Jr.) to buy him a BB gun for Christmas — and not just any BB gun, but “an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time [i.e., a sundial!].”
Yates is a scream as Ralphie’s increasingly frazzled father, beset by furnace “clinkers” that test his verbal self-control to keep from swearing out loud and a ravenous pack of Bumpus hounds that delight in harassing him on his way to and from his beloved Oldsmobile; and Twiss is hilarious as Ralphie’s somewhat ditzy but ultimately indomitable mother.
Seven-year-old Carter Godwin is a pip as Ralphie’s spoiled little brother Randy, whose constant whining and fidgeting would try the patience of Job. T. Philip Caudle gives a crowd-pleasing performance as the grown-up Ralph Parker, who narrates the show; and Sandi Sullivan adds a nice cameo as Ralphie’s heretofore favorite teacher Miss Shields, who shocks Ralphie by siding with the other adults who think that buying him a BB gun is a very bad idea.
Ten-year-old Alex Robertson is cute as Esther Jane Robinson, who has a big schoolgirl crush on Ralphie; but seventh-grader Riley Hough is not nearly nasty enough as class bully Scut Farkas.
Overall, A Christmas Story director William Alan Coats elicits much more memorable performances from the play’s adult cast members than he does from the kids, whom he seems to give just one note to hit over and over and over again. But set designer Chris Bernier has done an admirable job of recreating the interior of the two-storey Parker family home, a classroom at Ralphie’s school, and the Santa Claus section of a local department store.
SECOND OPINION: Dec. 15th Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 4 of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/strong-performances-and-good-results-in-a-christmas-story/Content?oid=1884641; Dec. 13th Triangle Arts & Entertainment review by Susie Potter: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2010/12/a-christmas-story-delights-fans-of-the-film/; Dec. 9th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/12/09/853442/review-a-christmas-story-might.html and Dec. 5th preview by Glenn McDonald: http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/12/05/841495/youll-shoot-your-eye-out.html. (To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Dec. 7th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2010/12/beloved-classic-a-christmas-story-opens-on-dec-7th/.)
Broadway Series South and Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy, with the North Carolina Theatre and Barton College, present A CHRISTMAS STORY at 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 18 and 19; 7 p.m. Dec. 21-23; and 2 p.m. Dec. 24 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
BOX OFFICE: North Carolina Theatre Box Office: 919/831-6941, ext. 6944. Ticketmaster: 800/745-3000, 919/834-4000, or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115202/820971.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919/857-4565.
Broadway Series South: http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/.
Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy: http://www.hotsummernightsatthekennedy.org/.
North Carolina Theatre: http://www.nctheatre.com/theatre/index.html.
Barton College: http://www.barton.edu/.
VENUE: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/page.php?mode=privateview&pageID=27. DIRECTIONS: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/page.php?mode=privateview&pageID=36.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 2 p.m. Dec. 18th performance.
The Play: http://www.dramaticpublishing.com/product_info.php?products_id=271 (Dramatic Publishing).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
The Playwright: http://www.dramaticpublishing.com/AuthorBio.php?titlelink=9381 (Dramatic Publishing).
Jean Shepherd: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Shepherd (Wikipedia).
The Film: http://www2.warnerbros.com/achristmasstory/ (official Warner Home Video DVD website), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Christmas_Story (Wikipedia), and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085334/ (Internet Movie Database).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.