What’s your Christmas Story?
Every year at Christmas, a common phrase that I hear echoed from my father’s mouth is “You’ll shoot your eye out!” He grew up watching the film, “A Christmas Story” every year at Christmas with his parents, and his mother used to say that to him. Now, he is echoing those words to my siblings and I, especially as my brothers get more daring and adventurous with their different toys. Somehow, even I have found myself drawn to “A Christmas Story” every year as my family carries on the tradition. Amazingly enough, “A Christmas Story” has found its way into most American homes and, to many, it is a highly held tradition to watch it every year.
This year, Fox has chosen to take this highly held tradition and add to it a fresh, new twist. On December 17, “A Christmas Story LIVE!” aired, bringing the beloved classic story to viewers young and old. Of course, they went above and beyond to bring it to life in a way that had never been done before. Taking material from the musical by the same name and the movie, along with additional songs composed especially for the TV performance, the creative team came together and created a piece of musical entertainment I think I shall never forget.
Fox managed to not only produce a wonderful production, but also reach beyond the TV screen to touch the viewers and remind them of what Christmas is about.
Thoughtfully directed by Scott Ellis, the show opened with some caroling, and then a picturesque view of what appeared to be Mainstreet Hohman, Indiana. The set came to life as Grown-up Ralphie (portrayed charmingly by Matthew Broderick) took us back to that fateful Christmas of his youth. He leads us through the familiar story of Ralphie (captured effortlessly by Andy Walken) who desperately wants a Red Rider BB Gun, and is tasked with the insurmountable task of convincing his parents to get him one for Christmas.
We all know the beloved tale, but cleverly inserted into the traditional story were comical and beautiful songs by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (“Dear Evan Hansen” and “La La Land”) that moved the story to a whole new level. Miss Shields (portrayed stunningly by Jane Krakowski) brought down the house as she and her students performed ‘You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out.” My favorite song was “Ralphie to the Rescue,” the fantasy that Ralphie has in class where he comes to the rescue of Miss Shields. Not only were the lyrics perfect to describe what Ralphie was thinking, but the choreography and staging really made me feel as though I was a part of Ralphie’s daydream! Mrs. Parker (portrayed beautifully by Maya Rudolph) added a motherly charm that was not only sarcastic and funny, but also sweet and genuine. The song she shared with Ralphie and Randy after the fight in the play yard was perfect, and the words certainly rang true!
Clearly, this production was carefully directed and produced, and great care was taken to mix the old classic moments and looks with the new twists. The costumes were beautiful! Clearly the head costumer and his staff put a great deal of hard work into ensure that each character was costumed, head to toe, with entirely period garb and did so many times over. The costume transitions were seamless and I loved how each character had a defined ‘look.’ The sets were gorgeous, and I still cannot figure out how they managed to transition from the four walls of the kitchen to the set of “Genius on Cleveland Street” and back again so seamlessly. The choreography was flawless, and fit each song so perfectly! As I watched the show, I began to forget that there ever was a version of “A Christmas Story” that wasn’t a musical!
As I mentioned before, to watch “A Christmas Story” is a tradition well beloved in this country. But, as I watched the production put on by Fox, I began to think about my Christmas story. After all, we all have that one Christmas that stands out to us: that Christmas where somehow, amidst all the fuss and stress, we still managed to make beautiful memories. For Ralphie Parker and his family, it was the year he asked for a Red Rider BB Gun. Somehow, amidst all the fuss about his dad’s leg lamp, Ralphie’s bunny suit, the flat tire, and the turkey robbery, the Parker family still had a Christmas that was filled with all the important things. As Grown-up Ralphie said so poignantly, “It was a year to remember.” No matter which version of “A Christmas Story” we watch each year, it is the reason we watch it that makes it so important. We watch it for the story, for the laughter, for the family, for the dysfunction that somehow functions, and we watch it for the memories it brings us of past viewings and past Christmases.
So what’s your Christmas Story? It may not be as eventful or dramatic as Ralphie’s, but I guarantee you that you have one. I’ve seen a lot of fantastic productions, both live and on TV, and I think Fox managed to not only produce a wonderful production, but also reach beyond the TV screen to touch the viewers and remind them of what Christmas is about.
Running Time: approx. 2.5 hours, without commercials.
Advisory: There are several curse words said, along with adult content at a few points, and some moments of drinking.
“A Christmas Story LIVE!” was performed on December 17th. For more information on “A Christmas Story LIVE!”, please visit here.