By JEAN LOWERISON | Uptown News
What’s a kid to do when what he really wants for Christmas is an air rifle, but nobody wants to hear about it?
To be specific, 9-year-old Ralphie Parker (JP Wishchuk) wants a Red Ryder Carbine Action Range Model Air Rifle with a compass in the stock. But all he hears when he mentions it is, “You’ll put an eye out!”
Ralphie and his kid brother Randy (Abraham German) live with their parents Mom (Heidi Meyer) and The Old Man (Jake Millgard) somewhere in Indiana in the 1940s. The story is told by a narrator (actually Ralphie as an adult, played appealingly by Steve Gunderson), who reminisces about those good old days.
The story meanders around a bit and doesn’t bother pounding a Christmas message at you (kind of refreshing after the other holiday shows), mixing a fairly standard schoolboy story with preparations for the big holiday, minus the preaching.
So we see Ralphie and Randy going to school, where we find teacher Miss Shields (a funny Barbara Schoenhofer) trying to keep the little wretches in line. Of course, we also have mean Scut Farkus (Jojo Eddington), the school bully, and his sidekick Grover Dill (Joshua Hitchcock). And Ralphie has a friend named Schwartz (Spencer Kearns), who teaches him bad words.
The kids do kid stuff, including one incident in which poor Flick (Mark Mahaffey)
is crazy enough to put tongue to flagpole outside on a snowy winter day, causing “A Sticky Situation.”
“A Christmas Story” has had a checkered past, beginning as a film in 1983. It was rewritten as a stage musical and opened in 2009 Kansas City. Then the music was rewritten by “La La Land” and “Dear Evan Hansen” composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul; that version played on Broadway in 2012.
The latter is the version San Diego Musical Theatre presents through Dec. 29 at the Horton Grand Theatre.
It’s a sprightly show, featuring 25 people and some 18 songs, a nice 12-piece orchestra led by Don LeMaster, and some good choreography by Jill Gorrie.
Meyer is especially fine as Ralphie’s mom, and sings one of the best songs — “Just Like That.”
Millgard is always welcome, and has a star turn of his own as The Old Man (i.e., Dad), the self-proclaimed “Genius of Cleveland Street” — a crossword-puzzle freak. When he wins what is billed as “A Major Award,” things get really strange.
The award comes in an enormous box, and consists of a … lady’s leg? (plastic, of course) and a lampshade? Oh, yeah, it’s a lamp. Remember those?
Mathys Herbert designed the niftily versatile dual-level set with a fold-out kitchen (I want one of those) and lots of movable stuff, including a cute little car.
But in the end, “It All Comes Down to Christmas,” and when it comes, everything seems fine. Just like it should.
— Jean Lowerison is a long-standing member of the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.