Nashville, TN Theatre Review | A Christmas Story

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A Christmas Story Leg Lamp Fragile

Tennessean.com Review

Nashville Rep Revives Homespun Humor of 'A Christmas Story'

You’d have to be a real Grinch not to appreciate the homespun humor and nostalgia of Nashville Repertory Theatre’s charming production of “A Christmas Story.”

Adapted by Phillip Grecian and based on the short stories of Jean Shepherd, “A Christmas Story” spins an all-American tale of holiday wonder. It’s 1940 in Hohman, Ind., and as Christmas approaches, 9-year-old Ralphie Parker wants just one thing — “an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass and this thing which tells time built right into the stock.”

For some folks, the holidays just wouldn't be complete without at least one viewing of the iconic 1983 film, starring Peter Billingsley. But there’s something quite special about watching the story unfold live in Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s intimate Johnson Theater.

Diehard fans will recognize all the key details — from Ralphie’s pink bunny suit to those darned Bumpus hounds. But there are some unexpected flourishes, as well, including a cheeky — or shall I say leggy? — salute to the Old Man’s “major award” and clever treatment of the scene in which Ralphie helps change a flat tire on the family Oldsmobile.

And don’t be surprised if you are called upon to help out during the show. There are several opportunities for audience participation, ranging from creative sound effects to an exciting visit to Goldblatts Department Store.

This marks Nashville Rep’s fourth installment of “A Christmas Story,” and each year seems to bring some fresh ideas. Producing Artistic Director René D. Copeland again directs a superb ensemble that keeps the magic flowing.

At this point, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Samuel Whited in the lead role. With boundless energy and great sincerity, he skillfully moves back and forth between the show’s narration by a grown-up Ralph, and the gleeful exploits of his younger self.

But Whited certainly is not alone in this story. David Compton is perfectly cast as The Old Man, offering just the right blend of charm and irascible humor. He also works the crowd for plenty of laughs as Ralphie’s teacher, Miss Shields. (“Watch your margins!”)

Jamie Farmer is the very picture of maternal devotion as Ralphie’s mother, and Andrew Kanies is absolutely priceless as kid brother Randy. Kanies has certainly made this role his own and seems to get better each year, punctuating his lines with an assortment of mischievous grins and well-placed pouts.

Peter Vann and David Wilkerson make a welcome return as Ralphie’s buddies Schwartz and Flick, and Geoff Davin easily switches gears between the bully Scut Farkus and Ralphie’s lispy classmate, Esther Jane. All three performers keep the audience in stitches, playing various cowboys, bandits and even the Bumpus dogs.

As usual, Gary C. Hoff has created a richly detailed backdrop for the story, which benefits from Michael Barnett’s lovely lighting design. Trish Clark’s costumes not only capture the era, but also help establish and distinguish the memorable characters.

Charming and thoroughly engaging, “A Christmas Story” is one holiday tradition you won’t mind keeping.

Amy Stumpfl, for The Tennessean

To read the article on The Tennessean, click here.

Play Synopsis: Nashville's Newest Holiday Tradition! Humorist Jean Shepherd's memoir of growing up in the Midwest in the 1940s follows 9-year-old Ralphie Parker in his unflappable campaign to get Santa (or anyone else) to give him a "legendary official Red Rider carbine-action 200 shot range-model air rifle." Ralphie pleads his case before his mother, his teacher, and even Santa Claus himself at Goldblatt's Department Store. The consistent response: "You'll shoot your eye out." This irresistible piece of Americana is guaranteed to warm the heart and tickle the funny bone.

Rated: Family Appropriate Visit http://nashvillerep.org/a-christmas-story to get your tickets today and spread the holiday cheer. Or call the TPAC box office at (615) 782-4040

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