A Christmas Story
Waterloo East Theatre
Reviewed – 30th November 2018
“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.
Reviewed by Amber Woodward
Photography by Robert Piwko
A Christmas Story
Waterloo East Theatre until Monday 22nd December
Previously reviewed at this venue:
THE SORROWS OF SATAN
Written by Luke Bateman & Michael Conley
Directed by Adam Lenson
Tristan Bates Theatre, London | 14 February – 25 March 2017
Casting announced for The Sorrows of Satan, a brand new musical play, based on one of the world’s first bestselling novels
The Sorrows of Satan is written by musical theatre writing duo Bateman and Conley and directed by Adam Lenson (Songs for a New World, St. James Theatre) and runs at Tristan Bates for six weeks, opening on 21 February with previews from 14 February
Cast includes Stefan Bednarczyk, Claire-Marie Hall, Dale Rapley and Simon Willmont
Stefan Bednarczyk plays Amiel. He has appeared in Mike Leigh’s Oscar-winning film Topsy Turvy and most recently as Foster Jenkins in Florence Foster Jenkins. He is a renowned solo cabaret performer, who has performed acclaimed seasons at Crazy Coqs, The Pheasantry, Pizza on the Park, King’s Head and Jermyn St. Theatre in London. Acting roles include a year-long run opposite Gene Wilder in Laughter on the 23rd Floor (Queen’s Theatre), Semi-Monde (Lyric), The Games of Love and Chance (National Theatre), The LA Plays (Almeida), Five O’Clock Angel (Hampstead and King’s Head), The Killing Of Mr Toad, The Grand Duke (Finborough), Noel Coward’s Christmas Spirits (St. James Theatre) and The Importance of Being Earnest (Riverside Studios). His films include Friends Pictured Within, Composed, Sea-Change and Topsy-Turvy.
Claire-Marie Hall plays ‘the Woman’. She studied at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. Theatre includes Between Empires (Symposium Hall, Edinburgh), The King and I (Curve Theatre and National Tour), Aladdin (New Wimbledon Theatre and Hackney Empire), High School Musical (Hammersmith Apollo and National Tour) and Les Miserables (Queen’s Theatre, West End).
Dale Rapley plays Lucio. He trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Theatre credits include Aladdin (Lyric Hammersmith), Richard III (West Yorkshire Playhouse), Women on the Verge of A Nervous Breakdown (West End), Wicked (UK tour), Larisa & The Merchants (Arcola), Hello Dolly! & Piaf (Curve, Leicester), Dangerous Lady (Theatre Royal Stratford East), The Lady in The Van (Hull Truck), The Tempest & King Lear (Actors From The London Stage, US), The Merchant of Venice & Holding Fire (Shakespeare’s Globe), Heartbreak House (Palace, Watford), A Model Girl (Greenwich Theatre), Professor Bernhardi (Arcola), Mamma Mia! (Prince Edward & tour), A Midsummer Night’s Dream, High Society (Regents Park Open Air Theatre), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (RSC), Six Characters Looking for an Author (Young Vic), Eden End & Arms and the Man (West Yorkshire Playhouse), Private Lives, Virtual Reality, A Word from our Sponsor, Dreams from a Summer House, Rocket to the Moon (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough), Lady into Fox (Lyric Hammersmith). Forthcoming productions include the UK tour of The Addams Family.
Simon Willmont plays Geoffrey. He trained at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA). Theatre credits include Mamma Mia! (International tour), Shady Business (UK tour), Beauty & the Beast (Engine House, Barnsley Civic), Blood Brothers (Phoenix Theatre, London & National Tours),The Hired Man, Cinderella, Stories for Christmas (Theatre by the Lake, Keswick), Jack & the Beanstalk (Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham), Everybody Loves Jason (Leicester Square Theatre), Rumpelstiltskin, Love & Other Ambiguities (Greenwich Theatre & Brighton Festival), The Adventures of Robin Hood (Gardner Arts Centre, Brighton), Girls Night Out (UK tour), Fabula Urbis (Greenwich Theatre) and Never Saw The Day (UK tour).
Based on Marie Corelli’s 1895 controversial bestseller, this new musical play reimagines the story of Faust in the heart of a corrupt 1920s London, where the elite are financially and emotionally bankrupt and one man has a big decision to make.
Pretentiously avant-garde musical playwright Geoffrey Tempest has been kicked out of his accommodations with not a penny to his name. He has one chance to prove himself to the theatrical community: a rehearsed reading of his musical play, The Sorrows of Satan. When his patron, the prodigal Prince Lucio Rimânez, suggests some significant changes, Geoffrey must decide whether to hold on to his artistic integrity (for what it’s worth) or sell out for the promise of fame, money and the love of his leading lady.
The Sorrows of Satan is written by Luke Bateman (Mr Popper’s Penguins) and Michael Conley and directed by Kevin Spacey Artist of Choice Award winner Adam Lenson (Songs for a New World, St. James Theatre). Casting and further creative details are to be announced.
THE SORROWS OF SATAN
Tuesday 14 February – Saturday 25 March 2017
1A Tower Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9NP.
Running time TBC – Age guidance 12+
Tickets: £20 (£18) All previews £14
Box Office 020 3841 6611