A Christmas Story, The Musical centres on a young boy called Ralphie (Felix Hepburn) whose only Christmas wish is to receive a BB gun, and the ways in which his family builds up to the special day. It includes the common kids’ tropes of tackling bullies, stereotypical sibling arguments and trivial classroom disasters. It’s very much a fun children’s show that stays within the realms of expected ideas and plots.
The show, at the intimate Waterloo East Theatre, is brimming with energy from both the children and adults in the show. While the adults are usually the core of a piece such as this, the kids (Alice Bonney, Ethan Quinn, Amelia Loannou, Daniel Osei and Alfie Turnbull) completely hold their own throughout. But in such a small theatre mistakes are easily visible, and transitions obviously seem clunky if they aren’t entirely figured out. This is unfortunately the case with some moments in this show.
Pasek and Paul’s music is as catchy as usual, and has sweet and simple melodies that satisfy the heart. But, it sadly just doesn’t quite have the same genius of Dear Evan Hansen or The Greatest Showman (their most recent works). Nevertheless, it is all sung well and I highly enjoyed the music performed by the small but mighty orchestra. The adults, in particular, all have fantastic voices that did the fun score justice with their stunning, belting voices.
Jenny Gayner as Miss Shields delivers a stand-out perfomrance with a delightful tap number, ‘You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out’, that is electric! Both Lucyelle Cliffe and Simon Willmont as Mother and Old Man play a convincing couple, and act honestly within the silliness of the show. Hepburn as main character Ralphie sings beautifully, with incredible stage presence and infectious confidence. Ethan Manwaring plays the adorable younger brother and is fearless when performing. He portrays the annoying sibling marvellously.
Garry Freer narrates the whole thing as Ralphie, 40 years later. He has a lilting southern drawl that is difficult to understand at times. But Freer gives an upbeat performance nonetheless, and is especially funny performing his impression of a drunk Santa.
The show, on occasion, tips into ‘over- acting’ which gives it a cheesy, Pantomime-esque feel. This seems to be a stylistic choice though, and one which, when representing the excitement of Christmas from a child’s point of view, should be entirely allowed. You cannot fault the casts commitment either, as their energy and enthusiasm doesn’t waver for a moment.
There is something slightly jarring about the show centering on Ralphie’s wish for a BB gun, which would be a little troubling today. Granted, there is a big cultural difference between 1920’s Indiana, which is where the show is set, and 2018 London, so perhaps we can let this one slide.
No matter what you take from it, you will be filled with a fairytale, Disney-style happiness from start to finish. A Christmas Story, The Musical is a wholesome, festive tale that will undoubtedly get you in the Christmas spirit.
A Christmas Story, The Musical is playing at The Waterloo East Theatre until December 22. For more information and tickets, click here.