A CHRISTMAS STORY, THE MUSICAL
November 22 – 29, 2015
Executive Producer: James Mansfield
Director: Joan Mansfield
By Joe Szek
At one point during the Christmas season, each of us has tuned in to watch the iconic film ‘A Christmas Story” (set in 1940), and we still smile as Ralphie sends messages to his family and his teacher that he wants only one thing for Christmas: A Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time. And we also know what the classic response will be, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” The film captured beautifully those “Christmases long, long ago” of being (and sometimes arguing) with family, waiting in line to see Santa, checking out the storefront display windows with oh, so many toys and preparing for the Christmas dinner (with hopefully no dogs eating the turkey).
Many years ago, when I heard that a musical version of this story would be launched, I wondered if any of the film’s wholesomeness would be lost in translation to the stage. Happily, none of that has occurred and the Oshawa based Dancyn Productions captures the spirit and the joy of the film told this time through song and dance. Memorable moments of the film have been captured, but the music and lyrics underscore some of the sensitive moments. Director Joan Mansfield credits her trusted team of key individuals behind the scenes who have successfully met the daunting challenges of staging a musical at the Dnipro Hall and turning it into a theatrical setting. According to Mrs. Mansfield, she has surrounded herself with good people who reflect the mandate of DANCYN. Everyone from each cast member to backstage worker has felt supportive and welcome, an extremely important aim behind the company’s aim to give all actors and crew a fair shot.
The lyrics are quite clever. Thank goodness microphones were used so we were able to hear most of the words. In lieu of a live band, licenced musical tracks were used. I didn’t miss a band or orchestra this time. I’m sure the cast probably had work to do to learn how to keep up with each track and song. Costumes maintained a 1940’s flair and a keen eye was maintained. What a welcome sight to see so many young, new and fresh faces in this lively cast of twenty-eight. Space does not allow me to name them all, but I sure hope these individuals will continue to audition for future local shows within the Durham community. I was surprised to see a professionally polished tap dance number in the second act and wondered where Mrs. Mansfield found so many kids who could tap dance. To my surprise, these kids learned the steps through rehearsals with choreographer Zade O’Blenes. Nice work here.
Local community actor Ross Libbey plays narrator Jean Sheppard who recounts his story of Ralphie and his family (loosely based on Sheppard’s own family). Libbey’s warm personality charms the audience immediately as we are drawn into the story. And speaking of charmers. Both Nate Hobor and Lucas Geuzebroek as Ralphie and Randy Parker are naturals in their precociousness and quite believable as brothers especially in the second act where Ralphie thinks that their father is going to kill Ralphie on account of the fight in the school yard with Scutt Farkus (Carey Risman). Alicia Del Vecchio as Mother and Bob Bauldry as Father have developed a believable relationship as husband and wife. Ms. Del Vecchio’s moment where she calms Ralphie and Randy down after the fight in the second act is very touching. Stephanie Herrera as the teacher, Miss Shields, delivers the knock out tap dance number in “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out”.
If you can, get out to see ‘A Christmas Story, The Musical’. It was heart warming to see a number of children and youth in the audience enjoying the performance. These are the very people whom we want to encourage so we will continue to enjoy the performing arts here in Durham Region. Bravo DANCYN, and I look forward to the rest of your season.