(Please click on the title to see the full review.)
Yes, it's corny and cartoonish, but who cares? This musical adaptation of the 1983 film based on Jean Shepherd stories exudes such warmth and good spirits that I quickly yielded to its charms. The book by Joseph Robinette dutifully hits all the high points of the nostalgic film. The clever music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and the lively choreography by Warren Carlyle greatly enrich the slender plot. The four members of the Parker are vividly and affectionately portrayed: nine-year old Ralphie (I saw Joe West, the alternate), kid brother Randy (Zac Ballard), patient mother (Erin Dilly) and goofy father (a winning John Bolton). Caroline O'Connor shines as Miss Shields, Ralphie's teacher. Luke Spring, as a tiny tap dancing powerhouse, is just amazing. The other members of the large cast (30 actors and two dogs) are uniformly good. The talented child actors successfully avoid any trace of cloying cuteness. There are two terrific production numbers -- "A Major Award" and "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out" -- that stop the show. The costumes by Elizabeth Hope Clancy are delightful, but I found Walt Spangler's set too garish. John Rando directed with a sure hand. I hope the show will become a seasonal staple. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes including intermission.