‘A Christmas Story: The Musical’ comes to life at Toby’s Dinner Theatre

A Christmas Story: The Musical at Toby’s celebrates the classic charm, innocence and nostalgia of a child’s Christmas in the 1940s with plenty of high energy production numbers from the adult and youth ensemble.

Jeffrey Shankle, Heather Marie Beck, Patrick Ford, and John Poncy. Photo courtesy of Toby’s Dinner Theatre.

A Christmas Story: The Musical is the stage adaptation of the classic 1983 hit film. In small-town Indiana in the 1940s, Ralphie Parker is determined to get a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas, even though all the adults in town, from his mother to his teacher and even the department store Santa, seem to stand in the way of him getting the best Christmas present ever.

Evan Christy, at this performance, is outstanding as the lead Ralphie Parker. Christy displayed a natural stage presence and charisma in his single-minded quest for the iconic Red Ryder BB Gun. Christy delivers some seriously impressive high notes and many earnest and sincere acting moments.

Toby’s veteran David Bosley-Reynolds provides all of the well-known Older Ralphie voiceover narrations as author Jean Shepherd during the show and serves his role as a radio narrator very well with easy congenial charm and dry wit observations. He had some marvelous facial expressions and his closing monologue about the love of parents and families was a perfectly delivered, heartfelt and cheerful ending to the show.

As “The Old Man”, Ralphie’s father, Jeffrey Shankle was a gruff yet lovable father figure with several standout moments in his many production numbers. Shankle delivered excellent deadpan one-liners and quips and provided refreshingly different and new deliveries from the famous film for many of his iconic lines.

Heather Beck was a wonderfully warm and caring, while at times, exasperated housewife and mother. Her Act 1 solo “What a Mother Does”, was one of the emotional highlights of the musical and Beck‘s effortlessly natural delivery was exceptional. Sonny Huza, playing Randy at this performance, was adorable as the whiny little brother who won’t eat his food and “can’t put [his] arms down!”

Evan Christy as Ralphie with the Parker family. Photo courtesy of Toby’s Dinner Theatre.

Jessica Bennett was a delight as the sassy, no-nonsense elementary school teacher, Miss Shields, and displayed excellent dance skills in her second act solo “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out.” Special mention also goes to Jack Patterson at this performance for a phenomenal tap solo dance break in the same number, featuring many complicated tap steps executed with ease and charisma.

The Youth Ensemble, comprised of Ralphie’s fellow classmates, were excellent in their multiple charming production numbers. All of the children’s roles in the show are double cast, and patrons will see one of two groups of talented youngsters at each performance providing a burst of innocent childhood energy to the holiday show. In a show filled with elaborate production numbers and childlike fantasy sequences, “Ralphie to the Rescue!” in Act 1 was a real highlight as the multifaceted ensemble seamlessly changed costumes and the sets several times within one high energy, fantasy number.

A Christmas Story: The Musical at Toby’s had the challenge of adapting many iconic, heartfelt moments, devised in the original version for a traditional proscenium stage, to their signature in-the-round dinner theater staging, such as Flick sticking his tongue to the flagpole or Ralphie sliding down the platform after the disastrous department store Santa visit. A beautifully imaginative moment came in Act 2 from director Shawn Kettering, where a well-timed set change and imaginative blocking choice provided a very poignant moment for Beck‘s Act 2 solo “Just Like That.”

Production values for this holiday classic, from the charmingly old-fashioned costumes and props, to an excellent live orchestra and energetic co-choreography from Tina Marie DeSimone and Mark Minnick, were up to the usual high standards at Toby’s and as much as Ralphie yearns for his Red Ryder BB Gun, families and theatergoers will yearn for tickets to this Christmas musical.

Running Time: Two hours and thirty minutes, including one twenty-minute intermission

A Christmas Story: The Musical plays through January 5, 2020, at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Columbia— 5900 Symphony Woods Road in Columbia, MD. For tickets, call or go online.


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