By Dee Jae Cox
Since its origins, in 700 BC, when the Greeks honored their god of wine and theatre, Dionysus, with festivals and drunken men in goat skins, theatre and storytelling has taken on many forms. Some classic dramas with lines that resonate deep in the psyche, other stories that don’t have the profound depth of a great drama, but still some how manage to become classic in their own right. Such is the tale of A Christmas Story, book by Joseph Robinette, Music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and currently in production at the Palm Canyon Theatre, in Palm Springs.
The stage musical, like Bob Clark’s 1983 sleeper film of the same name, is based on author Jean Shepherd’s semi-autobiographical collection of short stories titled, In God We Trust, All others pay cash.
A Christmas Story, tells the tale of 9 year old Ralphie, wonderfully performed by young actor Colin Sands, and Ralphie’s Christmas wish to receive a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and “this thing which tells time,” (a sundial).
Despite the obstacles, Ralphie holds fast to his dream of the perfect gift from Santa. A boy’s longing for a bb gun could easily be discarded as a childish wish for an impractical toy. But it symbolizes the dreams of Christmas when we want to believe that we could wake to find anything and everything that our heart desires under that tree.
Actor Ben Reece, is wonderful in his portrayal of ‘the old man’, Ralphie’s father, who clings to dreams of his own as he sings and dances to the musical number “The Genius of Cleveland Street.” Proving that we are never too old to make a wish. Anne Schroeder, as the Mother, is perfect in her role as a 1940’s ‘stay at home mom’, whose primary ambition is the welfare of her family. Her rendition of “What a mother does” was moving and touching and made me long for those days when mom could fix anything.
The ensemble of singers and dancers in this production, primarily children, were flawless as they made me laugh and smile through most of the clever songs about growing up, facing bullies and being a hero. I loved Rosanne Hopkins, as Miss Shields and her breakout number “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out.” There is a feeling of family and hope and holiday excitement when leaving the show; it’s a good night out with your family and a smile to kindle your holiday spirits.
Shows about 9 year old boys who want Santa to bring them a gun are not usually on my recommended list, but I loved the message of this show. It will make you smile, take you back to the highs and lows of childhood and remind you of what Christmas is really about.
Get your tickets for A Christmas Story, currently running through Sunday, December 20th, at the Palm Canyon Theatre, located at 538 North Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. For Reservations: Box Office: 760-323-5123 – www.palmcanyontheatre.org
Dee Jae Cox, is a playwright, director and producer. She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director for The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project and the host of the hit radio show, “California Woman 411.”