Poor Ralphie. All he wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle. Is that too much to ask? Kansas City Repertory Theatre faithfully adapted the nutty 1983 film A Christmas Story as a musical last year, and the producers—including the original Ralphie, Peter Billingsley—hope it’s Broadway-bound after its Seattle premiere at 5th Avenue Theatre. But they’re going to need to make a few changes before it hits the Great White Way, because right now, it’s pandemonium: like someone spiked the water in Whoville. What is this crazed jubilation, this over-the-top Christmas celebration disrupting a perfectly good holiday movie?
The book by Joseph Robinette provides a solid foundation—adhering devoutly to Jean Shepherd’s dry-witted radio stories about a nine-year-old’s Red Ryder lust and the haters (his mom, his teacher, a department-store Santa) who claim he’ll “shoot his eye out.” But composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul drown all that wit in treacle—rhyming “joys” with “girls and boys” and sending the cast into an uptempo frenzy every chance they get. There are nearly 25 musical numbers, and each tries to outdo the last. They succeed with showstoppers “Ralphie to the Rescue”—the one truly memorable song, with 11-year-old Olympia native Clarke Hallum (Ralphie) belting like a star—and “A Major Award,” featuring Spamalot veteran John Bolton (The Old Man) in a leg-lamp kickline. Local favorite Anne Allgood (Mother) provides a giant sigh of relief with ballad “What a Mother Does,” about the struggles of being a ‘40s housewife. But the rest of the tunes? We need to line them up like tin cans on top of a fence, and knock about half of them out. Then the musical will be worthy of its muse.
A Christmas Story: The Musical is at 5th Avenue Theatre through Dec 30.