Nashville Arts Critic Review: A Christmas Story

Ralphie, Flick, Schwartz and the whole ‘A Christmas Story’ gang are back as Nashville Rep offers up their annual gift of nostalgia, love and family laughs

By Jonathan Pinkerton

Under the direction of Nashville Rep‘s producing artistic director Rene D. Copeland, Nashville Rep’s “A Christmas Story” has become the definitive sign that the holidays are about to descend upon Middle Tennessee. This season marks the eighth year Nashville Repertory Theatre has presented their version of Phillip Grecian’s stage version of the beloved modern holiday classic based on the original writings of humorist Jean Shepherd, and of course the beloved early 80s film.

Humorist Jean Shepherd first introduced readers to his only slightly fictionalized Indiana boyhood memories in the pages of Playboy magazine in a series or short stories published in the mid-sixties. A few years later, during a Christmas broadcast of his New York0-based radio show, Shepherd shared a story titled “Flick’s Tongue” as a holiday gift to his listeners. Fast forward to 1983 and the release of “A Christmas Story”, and a modern holiday favorite was born.

What makes Nashville Rep’s “A Christmas Story” so much fun is the cast. Last year marked the debut of an all-new cast and this year most of them are back for a second look at Ralphie’s quest for an official Red Ryder BB gun…”with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time”.

You can’t have “A Christmas Story” without Ralphie. Frequent NashvilleRep star, Derek Whittaker is back for his second season as Ralphie. Whittaker eases into the coveted role with a nuanced finesse that makes you forget you’re watching a middle-aged man playing a pre-teen boy whose primary goal is to secure the Christmas present of his dreams. As only a seasoned actor can, Whittaker somehow expands upon the charm, wit and wisdom with which he initially portrayed Ralphie last season, to make this season’s take even more endearing. Whether playing Ralphie as a young boy, or breaking the fourth wall speaking directly to the audience as the adult Ralphie, who serves as the story’s narrator, Whittaker approaches the role with a familiarity that encourages the audience to recall their own similar childhood holiday memories.