A Christmas Story Theatre Review | The Tennessean
Nashville Rep's A Christmas Story remains Cherished Tradition
By Amy Stumpfl for The Tennessean | December 1, 2013
There’s something about the holidays that makes us long for the familiar comforts of home. Perhaps that’s why Nashville Repertory Theatre’s annual production of A Christmas Story has become such an important part of Nashville’s holiday celebration.
It’s not just the nostalgic fun of Ralphie and his quest for the Red Rider BB Gun. It’s the fact that we’ve come to look at these iconic characters — and, indeed, the actors who bring them to life in TPAC’s Johnson Theater — as dear friends. Our holidays simply wouldn’t be the same without them.
This charming revival marks Nashville Rep’s fifth annual staging of Jean Shepherd’s yuletide comedy. And fans of the classic 1983 film will certainly recognize familiar scenes — the pink bunny suit, the Bumpus hounds and, of course, the trip to Goldblatt’s Department Store to visit Santa Claus.
But Producing Artistic Director René D. Copeland (along with Assistant Director Martha Wilkinson) provide some unexpected treats, as well. Clever sound effects and a brilliantly balletic tribute to the Old Man’s “major award” are just some of the highlights. The element of audience participation also adds to the fun.
But what I love most about this show is the marvelous cast. With all of the actors reprising their roles from previous seasons, there’s a genuine sense of warmth and connection that enhances their performances.
Samuel Whited is back as Ralphie, seamlessly balancing the considerable demands of both the adult narrator and the wide-eyed child. Jamie Farmer is delightful as ever as Ralphie’s devoted mother. (Though I especially enjoy her interpretation of his fidgety classmate, Helen.) And Andrew Kanies makes a welcome return as kid brother Randy, among other roles. (I guarantee you’ll never look at Little Orphan Annie in quite the same way.)
Geoff Davin is terrific as he maneuvers between the dreaded bully Scut Farkas and the lovable Esther Jane. David Wilkerson is picture-perfect as Flick and Eric D. Pasto-Crosby is great fun as Schwartz. The three grab plenty of laughs throughout the evening, playing an assortment of cowboys, bandits and those pesky Bumpus dogs.
This year’s production takes on special meaning as David Compton makes a much-anticipated return to the stage after suffering a severe cardiac episode just one month ago. How wonderful to see Compton back, enjoying himself on stage. He never misses a beat as Ralphie’s irascible Old Man, and his delivery as Miss Shields keeps the audience rolling.
Gary C. Hoff’s storefront set — beautifully lit by Michael Barnett — is the very definition of holiday Americana. And Trish Clark’s period costumes nicely capture the era.
Heartwarming and fun, it’s easy to see why A Christmas Story has become such a cherished part of Nashville’s holiday season. It’s one of those traditions that will never grow old.