Going into A Christmas Story Live! it was understandable to have some mixed feelings. After all, why re-make a classic movie … and then shift it to a musical format? While this was not the first presentation of the original movie in a musical form, part of what made the original film so wonderful was it’s combination of dry cynicism and Christmas joy. The story of a boy celebrating the holidays somehow permeated through all of the sarcasm, the nonsense, and Ralphie shooting himself in the eye with a BB gun after multiple warnings that he would.
The problem with the Fox musical presentation is that A Christmas Story and a musical don’t quite mesh — and it’s really a shame. The numbers were extravagant and some of the quick-changes were utterly remarkable given that this was a live television event. The cast and crew did everything within their power to make this great — visually, it was. It’s probably the most impressive presentation we’ve seen since this whole live musical theater craze first began.
Unfortunately, A Christmas Story Live! was disjointed from the moment the first musical number happened. You’d go from Matthew Broderick’s incredible narration to something big, broad, and high-energy. It just didn’t match the rest of the story or the energy present there. The music works for something like Grease, The Sound of Music, or even Peter Pan — they are all at least high-energy productions that lean right into the music. A Christmas Story doesn’t. What makes it great is how small it is and how some of Ralphie’s wild imagination runs in contrast to much of reality. Too much of the presentation was big and wild; with that, Ralphie’s daydreams didn’t feel anywhere near as special or as notable. We’d get almost word-for-word recreations of the movie paired with musical numbers overshadowing some notable parts of the original.
Here’s a good example of a number being out of place: Ralphie’s father singing about receiving a “Major Award” complete with what felt like the backdrop of a Hollywood awards show. What made the leg-lamp fun in the original was that for that character, him getting the lamp shipped to him in a crate was his equivalent of winning an Oscar; this character to us would never imagine himself in an environment where he was in a tux accepting an award. Unless you argue that the musical numbers are all Ralphie projecting his feelings onto other characters it just doesn’t make sense. Nobody may sing and dance in real life (except maybe Chris Diamantopoulous who we picture singing about his toast every morning while dancing to his coffee marker), but we like to think that there’s some sort of context to it. You want to understand why someone could sing and the environment they’re performing in.
What did work
As we referenced, the cast was wonderful and most of the singing was equally great. We loved the diversity, the characters, and the attention to detail with some of the costumes. Broderick wandering around as Adult Ralphie narrating things was distracting at first, but we eventually got used to it.
A Christmas Story Live! would’ve worked better if they had just recreated the movie live for the stage and not attempted a musical at all. We’re all so close to the original and while experimentation is good, you have to be cognizant of the tone and the intention. Tonally, A Christmas Story is an intimate tale of family and cherishing the small moments. The musical turned it into something bigger and, in turn, something muddled.
What’s your own A Christmas Story Live! review? Be sure to share in the comments below right now!
Also, like CarterMatt on Facebook to get a wide array of news on everything we cover at the site. (Photo: Fox.)