If you make plans to see just one theatrical event this holiday season, make sure it’s Marriott Theatre’s blockbuster production of A Christmas Story, the Musical.
Filled with stunning performances and jaw-dropping production numbers, Marriott’s A Christmas Story is just what is needed to bring holiday cheer to Chicagoland audiences. This is thanks to the visionary creative talents of director Scott Weinstein, choreographer Tiffany Krause, and music director Ryan T. Nelson, as well as a cast of amazing musical theatre talents.
A Christmas Story started life in a 1966 book by American humorist Jean Shepherd. In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash is a collection of anecdotal stories that Shepherd popularized on the radio. This book inspired two films: A Christmas Story in 1983 and My Summer Story in 1994. In both films, Shepherd served as the narrator. A Christmas Story also contains elements from another Shepherd book: Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters.
MODERN HOLIDAY CLASSIC
The cult classic holiday film tells the story of young Ralphie Parker’s attempts to sway his parents into getting him a Red Ryder air rifle for Christmas circa 1940’s. Under Weinstein’s direction, the musical brings to life the wild imagination of a nine-year-old determined to get the gift of his dreams despite seemingly every adult’s dire warning that he might shoot his eye out.
The central role of Ralphie is dual cast with Kavon Newman and Keegan Gulledge sharing performance duties. Newman, with a darling smile and a strong and moving singing voice, performed the role spectacularly on press night.
Just as important as having the right child actor to play Ralphie is the need for a narrator who can capture the right air of nostalgia and the warmth of the holiday spirit in telling the memories of a Christmas long ago. Veteran actor Kevin McKillip is a delight in the role of Jean Shepherd (politely named after the author).
McKillip has the charm and personability of a Tom Hanks. He is the glue that makes Marriott’s A Christmas Story the theater’s best production since the side-splitting comedy Murder for Two (coincidentally also directed by Weinstein). That says a lot because Marriott’s shows are consistently great.
Ralphie’s parents are referred to in the movie and in the play simply as Mother and The Old Man. Lorenzo Rush Jr. steals the show as the patriarch of the family. Cut from the same cloth as Ralph Kramden and Fred Flintstone, Rush’s father figure is delightfully grumpy, but also still capable of showing love for his family.
THE BIGGER THE BETTER
Every number in the musical seems to top the one before. They are all brilliantly staged in their own right, but Rush’s performance in the big production number A Major Award brings the house down. Lorenzo Rush Jr. is a showstopper.
As Mother, Sara Reinecke is the sweet, all-knowing master of the house, subtly pulling the strings while letting The Old Man think he’s in charge. Reinecke is a wonderful actress and has a beautiful, expressive voice that would make any Disney Princess envious.
Ralphie also has brother named Randy, who was nicely played by Levi Merlo on press night and is also played by Murphy Molony on other nights.
Other standout performances in this fabulous stage musical include the marvelously animated Jenna Coker-Jones as Ralphie’s teacher Miss Shields, Braden Crothers as school bully Scut Farkus, and Jaxon Mitchell as Ralphie’s chum Flick.
In fact, the Marriott production features an amazing assembly of child actors who all seem equally comfortable hoofing out spectacular tap numbers or singing in beautiful harmonies. The adult ensemble is also very gifted and fun to watch.
A Christmas Story, the Musical is first and foremost based on the popular movie written by Shepherd, Leigh Brown, and Bob Clark. But, the musical has its own charms – particularly thanks to the bigger-than-life production numbers.
The Marriott production of A Christmas Story is not an imitation of the movie, rather it takes all the best elements and then adds to them. The result is a show worthy of multiple standing ovations that both adults and kids will enjoy.
The musical features a book by Joseph Robinette and music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The talented songwriting duo is also known for La La Land, Dear Evan Hansen, and The Greatest Showman.
You could spend your holiday dollars on yet another showing of A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker, and you’ll probably have a good time. But, if you want a guaranteed great time – go see A Christmas Story, the Musical at Marriott Theatre. You won’t be disappointed, and Santa would approve.
Run time for A Christmas Story is 2 hours and 15 minutes including intermission. The family-friendly musical plays Wednesdays through Sundays, with matinees on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, and select Thursdays.
The Marriott Theatre is located at 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire. For tickets contact the box office at (847) 634-0200 or visit www.MarriottTheatre.com.
Peace. Love. Trust.
Rikki Lee Travolta
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This year, I had the great pleasure of appearing in the hilarious Paul Rudnick comedy I Hate Hamlet for Elgin Theatre Company in the greater Chicago area. To our great honor, I Hate Hamlet has been nominated for seven prizes in the 2022 Broadway World Chicago Theatre Awards:
- Best Direction of a Play – Regina Belt-Daniels
- Best Ensemble Performance
- Best Play
- Best Performer in a Play – Rikki Lee Travolta
- Best Supporting Performer in a Play – David Gasior
- Best Supporting Performer in a Play – Trace Gamache
- Best Supporting Performer in a Play – Travis Greuel
If you want to voice your support for the Elgin Theatre Company production of I Hate Hamlet, you can cast your vote at: https://www.broadwayworld.com/chicago/voteregion.cfm