Review: A CHRISTMAS STORY THE MUSICAL at Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire IL
I smiled through the entire show.
The last production for the 2022 season at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire is A Christmas Story The Musical. The book was written by Joseph Robinette and the music and lyrics are by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the creative team which gave us The Greatest Showman, La La Land and Dear Evan Hansen. ACS The Musical was composed in 2012. Under the superb direction of Northwestern's own Scott Weinstein, the out of this world choreography by Tiffany Krause and an orchestra for your ears under the direction of Ryan T. Nelson and Kevin Reeks, you are in for a holiday treat.
This timeless story of a boy named Ralphie Parker (Kavon Newman making his Marriott debut and shining) wishing for a Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun has become synonymous with the holidays. The musical incorporates all of the classic scenes from the movie. As I looked around the audience on opening night, I saw nothing but smiles - not just from kids but adults. The story is set up by the narrator Jean Shepherd (Kevin McKillip with the perfect voice and masterful storytelling) while he is in his radio station. The lights go down and when they come up, we are now transported to the Parker home in Indiana on December 1, 1940. Here we meet the rest of the Parkers. The Old Man (Lorenzo Rush, Jr. - scene stealer!), Mother (Sara Reinecke's portrayal was exquisite) and of course Randy (Levi Merlo in his Marriott debut along with the snowsuit).
Before each classic scene, the audience knew what was about to happen. The reaction in the theater was priceless. When Randy is being wrapped up in the snowsuit, can't move his arms and then is on the ground near the school, it is a joy to watch. Lots of applause. Miss Shields (in a hysterical portrayal by Jenna Coker-Jones) is a powerhouse performance. There are the bullies - Farkus and Dill (in their Marriott debut and really delivering). Then there is Flick (Jaxon Mitchell in his Marriott debut). What can I say about a character being stuck to a light pole by his tongue and singing about it? Bravo. There is also the famous visit to Higbees with Santa and the Elfs. Santa (menacingly portrayed by Jackson Evans) really delivers his true thoughts about the job.
The choreography by Tiffany Krause is outstanding. There are several major dance numbers. They are exceptional but the one that left me breathless is the number called "A Major Award". The Old Man receives his leg lamp. This dance number and the costumes for the dancers is absolutely brilliant. If you want to see dancing leg lamps that light up this is for you!!! "Ralphie to the Rescue" is Ralphie's imagining of why he should have the BB gun. "When You're a Wimp" has the school kids and the bullies intermingling. This ensemble of kids is fantastic. They are so multi talented and a joy to watch.
Ralphie, of course, gets his gun. The family ends up at the Chinese restaurant after the dogs eat their Christmas turkey. As the family is sitting at the table reflecting on this Christmas, the narrator appears so he can wrap up his memory of this special Christmas. There is a bit of a heart tug.
Fans of the movie or anyone who hasn't seen it will enjoy this production. Marriott has done a wonderful job of bringing a celluloid work into a dimensional production. The costumes by Izumi Inaba reflect the time period. The set by Jeffrey D. Kmiec transports us to that era. The leg lamp design was fantastic! I wasn't sure I was ready to immerse into Christmas. However, by the end of the night, the Christmas feeling was beginning to surface. For anyone who needs some positivity and comfort as the holidays approach, this production will definitely steer you in the right direction. Sometimes that's all we need. Marriott has succeeded.