by Terrance Mc Arthur
A lamp shaped like a woman’s leg.
A tongue stuck to a flagpole.
A Red Ryder BB gun.
“You’ll shoot your eye out!”
A Christmas Story: the musical has come to Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theatre, and the Good Company Players have unwrapped a nostalgic present filled with good cheer through January 10. The movie with Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon, and Peter Billingsley is now a seasonal staple, based on memory-stories from In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd, who voiced the film’s narration and was a writer of the screenplay. The 2012 musical, with a script by Joseph Robinette, has songs by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who provided tunes for the musical Dogfight and for the second season of the TV series Smash.
Ralphie (Jonathan Aguirre) in pre-WWII Indiana, wants 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” (It’s a sundial). His Old Man (Teddy Maldonado) swears a lot in a gobbledygook translation and longs to win a prize in one of the contests he often enters. Ralphie’s mom (Jessica Sarkisian) tries to deal with motherly/wifely stress because it was the Depression, and people dealt with things. Ralphie tries to enlist his teacher (Laurie Pessano) on his side to help him get his desired present, but the course of true gift-hinting never did run smooth. Over it all presides the presence of Jean Shepherd (Dan Pessano), narrating the life he remembers/imagines.
Aguirre is winning and cheerful, even when Ralphie is at his most monomaniacal. His Junior Company training stands him in good stead.
Maldonado lists more than ten GCP credits in his bio blurb. He attacks the stage like a blend of Jason Alexander and Jackie Gleason, with a self-effacing shot of Jimmy Stewart as a chaser.
Sarkisian is strong yet perplexed, resourceful and resolute as a mother trying to raise a family in trying times.
Laurie Pessano shines in an extended dance number that would exhaust most members of the audience.
Dan Pessano could bring warmth to playing a block of ice. He sings, he acts, and he does it in corduroy. Jean Shepherd should be happy to have Dan play him and a number of cameo appearances from an Old West icon to a Minnesotan delivery man.
Connor Pofahl and Peter Hartley are supportive as Ralphie’s school chums when they aren’t double-dog-daring one another. Erik Olson and Sterling Parker have a cuddly menace to them as the local schoolyard bully and his toady.
Dan and Laurie Pessano’s daughter, Emily, deserves kudos for co-directing the show with Robert Sanchez, and co-choreographing with Sarkisian.
Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed’s costumes echo the film’s designs and show off the fashion faux pas of the era.
A special nod is owed to Abigail Nolte as a department-store elf with an attitude. David Pierce’s set morphs into anything needed by the story, from beds to desks to a car, out-transforming the Transformers.
This show may not have songs you recognize, but it has love and heart and an eggnog-bowlful of Christmas joy; Drink deep.
The Junior Company honors this family-friendly musical with a medley of songs about family, from “We Are Family” to “Mother-In-Law,” which features seven-year-old Jackson Estep (A star is born!)
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