Broadway World Review: A Christmas Story
Nashville Rep's Always Magical A CHRISTMAS STORY
by Jeffrey Ellis
Some grand holiday traditions are exactly what is needed in these turbulent times and nothing is more pleasing than the 2016 version of Nashville Repertory Theatre's live stage version of A Christmas Story, the theatrical treatment of the movie of the same name that somehow captures all the memories and nostalgia, all the laughter and mayhem of the holiday season. Directed with care by Nashville Rep's producing artistic director Rene D. Copeland, A Christmas Storycontinues to delight audiences at TPAC's AnDrew Johnson Theatre who, year after year, make their way downtown to be caught up in Jean Shepherd's recollections of his boyhood holidays in pre-World War II Indiana.
A significant hit for Nashville Rep when it premiered some eight years ago, A Christmas Storycontinues to draw crowds, wrapping them in a welcome blanket of holiday warmth that most likely recalls childhood memories of similar seasons for each and every audience member. Gary Hoff's remarkable set, which depicts the quaint hometown of Shepherd's fictional Parker family, remains every bit the perfect setting for all the myriad comic hijinks of Copeland's stellar ensemble of actors and immediately transports theater-goers to another time and place in the process.
With the film version of A Christmas Story such an enduring part of Christmas in America, the story is well-known and the movie's hilarious events are just as entertaining - perhaps even more so - when presented "live and onstage." Everything that stands out in memory from the film version is part of the stage production and with the immediacy of live theater, they seem to pack a bigger punch, a more sustained sense of wackiness pervading the surroundings.
But what really stands out when seeing the live show is the tremendous heart that fills Shepherd's tale of his growing up in a simpler, far more innocent time. Adapted by Phillip Grecian, from the motion picture screenplay that was written by Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark (he of Porky's fame), the stage version seems far more likely to tug at the heartstrings - your own reminiscences and memories seem to be much more vibrant when you are caught up in the action happening mere feet away from you - and to elicit a bigger emotional response, limned by incipient sentimentality and heaps of nostalgia borne from the story of young Ralphie Parker and his pursuit of an air rifle on Christmas morning.