“I couldn’t tell whether I left humming the melodies because they were catchy, or just because they just recurred so many times in the show”
A Christmas Story: The Musical is a stage adaptation of the 1983 film of the same name. It’s a national treasure in the US, with a tradition of being played back to back on one TV channel for 48 hours from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day. In the UK, there’s not the same collective consciousness. Without any prior knowledge, the plot is pretty bizarre.
The story follows Ralphie, told in flashback by his older self, counting down to Christmas somewhere in Indiana in the mid-1940s. He’s obsessed with convincing his parents to gift him a Red Ryder Carbine action BB gun. His parents, teacher, even a drunk Santa at the Department Store, all give him the same reply to his request: “you’ll shoot your eye out!”. So far so normal. It’s the wacky sub-plots involving Ralphie’s dad winning a lamp made from a female mannequin’s leg and other such vignettes that make it difficult to connect with an otherwise sweet family story.
Keen musical buffs may note that the music and lyrics are by Pasek and Paul. The duo are the songwriters behind the Broadway smash Dear Evan Hansen and also wrote lyrics for the songs in the Oscar winning film La La Land. The songs here are familiar in format and style, but none feel as powerful or memorable. I couldn’t tell whether I left humming the melodies because they were catchy, or just because they just recurred so many times in the show.
The cast is kept tight, with the majority of roles accounted for by children from the British Theatre Academy. The children’s roles are shared across two casts, with all those I saw providing sweet and endearing performances. Felix Hepburn as Ralphie does a great job with a hefty role, practically on stage and carrying the story for the full two hours. Special mention should also be given to Ethan Manwaring as Ralphie’s younger brother Randy, who was fizzing with enthusiasm and always carrying a cheeky grin. The adult performers provided high calibre vocals which were some of the most pleasing moments of the show.
Where present, the choreography was slick and personally, I would have loved to see more. Oliver Harman’s set design and Becky Livermore’s costume did well to evoke a sense of a mid-western 1940s home. But overall, the disparate and madcap plot let this piece down.
Here’s some more information about how successful the album has been and the show itself.
Dear Evan Hansen, is the new musical with a book by Obie Award-winner Steven Levenson and a score by Tony® Award nominees Benj Pasek & Justin Paul. Directed by 3-time Tony® Award nominee Michael Greif, Dear Evan Hansen began previews on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre (239 W 45th St) on November 14th 2016 and officially opened on December 4th 2016. The show is currently booking on Broadway until March 2018. No real indication yet as to when or even if the show will open on the West End – fingers crossed …
The Broadway cast of Dear Evan Hansen includes Ben Platt, Laura Dreyfuss, Rachel Bay Jones, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Mike Faist, Michael Park, Will Roland and Kristolyn Lloyd, and Michael Lee Brown, Garrett Long, Olivia Puckett, Colton Ryan, and Asa Somers.
A letter that was never meant to be seen, a lie that was never meant to be told, a life he never dreamed he could have. Evan Hansen is about to get the one thing he’s always wanted: a chance to finally fit in. Both deeply personal and profoundly contemporary, Dear Evan Hansen is a new American musical about life and the way we live it.
Dear Evan Hansen features scenic design by David Korins, projection design by Peter Nigrini, costume design by Emily Rebholz, lighting design by Japhy Weideman, sound design by Nevin Steinberg, and hair design by David Brian Brown. Music supervision, orchestrations and additional arrangements are by Alex Lacamoire. The music director is Ben Cohn. Vocal arrangements and additional arrangements are by Justin Paul. Danny Mefford is the choreographer. Casting is by Tara Rubin Casting, Lindsay Levine, CSA. Adrienne Campbell-Holt serves as Associate Director. Judith Schoenfeld will serve as Production Stage Manager, with Michael McGoff as Stage Manager.
Dear Evan Hansen had its world premiere at Arena Stage, Washington D.C. and played a record-breaking New York debut at Off-Broadway’s Second Stage. Last season, the musical won ‘Best Musical’ prizes from the Obie Awards, Outer Critics Circle Awards and Helen Hayes Awards.
THE ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST RECORDING OF
DEAR EVAN HANSEN MAKES BILLBOARD HISTORY WITH EXTRAORDINARY FIRST WEEK DEBUT ENTERS “BILLBOARD 200” AT #8 – SUCCESS MARKS HIGHEST CHARTING DEBUT
FROM ORIGINAL CAST ALBUM SINCE 1961
The Original Broadway Cast Recording of Dear Evan Hansen made an extraordinary debut on the Billboard 200, entering the chart at #8 – the highest charting debut position for an original cast album since 1961. In addition, the album debuted at #4 on Billboard’s “Top Album Sales” ranking, and #1 on the “Top Broadway Albums” chart.
One of only four cast albums to reach the top 10 of the “Billboard 200” in the last 50 years, the album’s historic success even outpaced the debut chart position of the Hamilton, which bowed at #12. The other two albums to reach the top 10 in the last half century were Rent and the Original 1969 Cast Recording of Hair.