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A Christmas Story The Musical, Arts Club Theatre Company

The Arts Club Theatre Company’s A Christmas Story, The Musical starts off in Manhattan, as a radio announcer brings the audience back to small-town 1940’s Indiana for a youthful holiday production.

From the moment I saw the Arts Club poster of the leggy lamp online, I became curious. I’ve obviously never seen the movie otherwise I’d have known about its existence prior to last night’s opening.

A Christmas Story The Musical, Arts Club Theatre Company

The story involves nine-year-old Ralphie Parker, a kid with the solitary goal of getting his very own Official Red Ryder carbine-action BB gun for Christmas. This isn’t just any BB gun though: it’s got a compass in the stock and “this thing which tells time”.

He’s got hurdles to jump though: his Old Man, mother, and teacher (Miss Shields) are the ones who need convincing that he’s worthy of this primo gift. Problem is all but the Old Man fear he’ll shoot his eye out! This infuriating message is even brought out by the Big Bearded Red Man himself as Ralphie (Valin Shinyei) and brother Randy (Glen Gordon) visit the Highbee’s Department Store Santa during the holiday season.

A Christmas Story The Musical, Arts Club Theatre Company

The story is narrated by an older Ralphie (Duff Macdonald), who stands off to the side of the stage for most of the two-act play.

Born entertainer Valin Shinyei has a beautiful, clear voice and a spunky personality, perfect for the leading role. The strong harmony of the ensemble is evident during the opening number, Counting Down to Christmas. The catchy tunes are definitely fun for the entire family and the younger set will especially relate to the magic of Christmas, school life and just being a kid during the holidays.

Valin Shinyei, Duff MacDonald
[Valin Shinyei, Duff MacDonald]

In addition to Shinyei, strong performances by Sara-Jeanne Hosie as Miss Shields and Matt Palmer as Old Man Parker are a joy to watch as they aim to set their two sons on the right track in life.

We found the second act much more fun and lively than the first, almost as if the slow start to the evening was created just for tying the loose knots later in the show. A busy Valerie Easton does double duty as the show’s director and most excellent choreographer, especially when it comes down to the children in the cast, all of whom are terrific to watch.

A Christmas Story The Musical, Arts Club Theatre Company

Amir Ofek’s cleverly manufactured, layered set is complemented by Gerald King’s super lighting wizardry and Chris Daniels’ sound design.

And then there’s that lamp – Ralphie’s Dad is enamored of it, his Mom, not so much, yet it’s there and adds a fun element to another otherwise traditional/predictable holiday-themed story. If you crave a very light, easily-digestible story that you can take your kids to, this one will get them fired up and into the holiday spirit.

A Christmas Story, The Musical continues at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage through December 27. Photos by David Cooper.

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