Two Musicals: A Christmas Story and Miracle on 34th Street (Aired: December 18, 2019)

Musical adaptations of Christmas movie classics close out the year with two shows running through Dec. 22. Sonoma Arts Live presents A Christmas Story, The Musical while Lucky Penny Productions brings Miracle on 34th Street, The Musical to Napa.

Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story was a moderate film success back in 1983. Based on the writings of humorist Jean Shepherd, repeated TV airings made it a holiday staple which means, of course, it had to be turned into a musical.

All young Ralphie Parker (Tuolumne Bunter) wants for Christmas is an official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time. Thwarted by his mother (Morgan Harrington), his teacher (ScharyPearl Fugitt), and even Santa Claus, things don’t look promising on Christmas morn. Will his Old Man (Rick Love) come through?

The script follows the film fairly closely, with key moments converted to musical numbers by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dear Evan Hansen). The Old Man’s infamous leg lamp becomes “A Major Award”, the tongue-on-the-flag pole bit is “A Sticky Situation”, and the standard admonition to any child desirous of a BB gun is turned into the show-stopping, Michella Snider-choreographed tap dancing extravaganza “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out”.

Turning a 90-minute film into a full-blown musical leads to padding and there’s way too much focus on the parents, but Bunter is very good as Ralphie and the show does retain a lot of the film’s charm.

The same cannot be said for Miracle on 34th Street, the Musical.

How Meredith Willson (The Music Man) managed to strip an Oscar-winning story of most of its charm and turn the leads into two very unlikeable people is something of a miracle in itself.

The tale of a little girl (Ava Reynolds, alternating with Grace Martin) who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus and the romance between her mother (Alison Quin) and a neighbor (F. James Raasche) misses on almost every count.

The cast tries hard, with Tim Setzer’s Kris Kringle and Jill Wagoner’s prosecuting attorney coming off best, but there’s zero chemistry between the leads and there’s little love evident in a show whose original title was Here’s Love.   

A Christmas Story: The Musical’ runs through December 22 at Andrews Hall in the Sonoma Community Center in Sonoma. Thursday through Saturday evening performances are at 7:30pm; the Sunday matinee is at 2pm.

For more information go to sonomaartslive.org.

‘Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical’ plays through December 22 at the Lucky Penny Community Arts Center in Napa. There are Thursday through Saturday evening performances at 7pm and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2pm.

For more information, go to luckypennynapa.com.

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