The 5th Avenue Theatre had some pretty big shoes to fill this holiday season - its own! After all, last year's return engagement of White Christmas was a crowd pleaser of epic proportions, my own little crowd in particular. Would we like "A Christmas Story" as much?
Even more, it turns out, thanks in part to the incredible cast of singing, dancing kids and the all-too-relatable storyline of a 9-year-old on a desperate quest for his dream Christmas gift. The gift in question: a BB gun. The odds of finding it under the tree? Next to nil, especially after a regrettable swearing incident.
In fact, 9-year-old Ralphie's desperate maneuverings to try to get the BB gun were just the thing to tickle my kids' (ages 11 and 14). Ralphie is played by Clarke Hallum, an 11-year-old phenom from Olympia and a major talent; when he belted out his first few notes, I knew we were in for a treat. In fact, the entire cast of kid actors in this production is remarkable.
But it may be Ralphie's dad, played by Broadway veteran John Bolton, who steals the show. Sporting an aw-shucks cardigan, Bolton is all stalking angles and middle-class midwest values - until he wins a contest, that is, and launches into one of the show's funniest moments: A full-on dance of crazy daddy joy that had the kids and I rolling.
I've never understood the appeal of this movie - until now. In the hands of the 5th Avenue, the twee holiday classic gains sophistication -- even as a kid named Flick gets his tongue stuck to a flag pole. Perhaps the cool, glittery ice-cave sets helped. Certainly the spot-on dance numbers and hook-heavy, memorable songs did as well. Here's a holiday production that truly appeals to kids - and I mean wiggly tween boys wearing neckties. My son could relate to Ralphie. My daughter loved the specatle of the whole grand, glittering production. And I loved the cleverness of it all; the holiday cornball plot and the sentimental message: In the end, your family will be there for you.
'A Christmas Story: The Musical' runs through Dec. 30 at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre. Two acts, about one hour each with a half-hour intermission. Booster cushions available and a must in this beautiful old theater.