Long before Deadpool broke through the fourth wall on the big screen, little Ralphie Parker was yearning for a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and “this thing which tells time” in A Christmas Story. And now through December 21st, you can attend the faithful adaptation of the famous holiday movie performed by the Nashville Repertory Theatre.
Currently appearing at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in the Andrew Johnson Theater for the eighth consecutive year, A Christmas Story recreates small-town life in Hohman, Indiana during the 1940s, but the storyline is about much more than just a boy and his would-be present. There’s peer pressure on the playground plus physics, the never-ending struggle with the family’s furnace (“It’s a clinker!”), dealing with the neighborhood bully (who actually names their kid Scut Farkas?), The Old Man’s major award, the 785 no-good Bumpus Hounds and a memorable Christmas dinner served at a local Chinese restaurant.
Curtis Reed (Randy/Ensemble), Mikey Rosenbaum (Flick/Ensemble) and Brett Cantrell (Schwartz/Ensemble) all fit nicely into their respective roles. First-time Christmas Story performer Jack E. Chambers’ cranky Old Man has great chemistry with his on-stage wife (performed by the always wonderful Megan Murphy Chambers), which makes sense because they are actually a real-life couple. Balancing between roles of the rough-and-tumble miscreant and the sensitive love interest for Ralph, Antonio P. Nappo’s interpretations of Scut Farkas and Esther Jane were my favorite characters of the bunch. They were relentless and heartwarming, respectively. Speaking of Ralph, Derek Whittaker shines in the play’s featured role for the second consecutive year, but whenever I think of the omnipotent narrator he also plays, it’s his friendly and recognizable voice that instantly pops into my mind, instead of Jean Shepherd’s voice from the movie, and that is quite the compliment coming from a fan who watches the holiday classic multiple times during its 24-hour marathon each year it airs on basic cable and has many lines of its dialogue memorized and frequently recited throughout the year.
For the third year in a row, attending the Nashville Rep’s performance of A Christmas Story has become a rite of passage for me and now it’s a family tradition, one which we instantly look forward to, as soon as the temperature drops in Middle Tennessee. And like clockwork, it somehow gets better year after year. Be on the lookout for the leg lamp dancers and the Goldblatt’s Department Store Santa slide. They are definite highlights of the show. There’s great nostalgia and audience participation packed into each performance, with many familiar faces making appearances (for the Nashville Rep regulars) and new laughs are added to the script each year. Speaking of laughs, when the audience is laughing hysterically to the point of snorting, you know you’re watching a quality production.
Fans familiar to the 1983 movie, as well as those who have yet to see it, will greatly enjoy A Christmas Story performed by Nashville Repertory Theatre.