Thanks to holiday movie marathons on cable TV, many people are already familiar with the plot of A Christmas Story. For those without this cinematic tradition, the tale is simple: Ralphie wants a “Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time” for Christmas. His desires are thwarted time and again by overly cautious adults convinced he’ll “shoot his eye out”. Ralphie dreams, schemes, and does everything a kid can to get his way. Will Santa pull through?
As a big fan of the original movie, I was excited for this production and had a good time reliving my favourite moments like when Ralphie’s dad wins a gaudy lamp from a newspaper trivia game and displays it proudly in their front window. I was curious how a stage show would pull off the iconic scene when Ralphie asks a mall Santa for his beloved BB gun and was pleased with the creativity Ottawa Little Theater exhibited in putting that together.
There were a few times when having seen the movie detracted from my enjoyment of the show a little. The Christmas Day disaster when the family’s long-awaited turkey dinner is ruined came off as too comical for me, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. The climactic scene between Ralphie and the neighbourhood bully didn’t have the same dramatic build-up and tension I expected, though the fight choreography was well done. Kenny Hayes did a good job narrating the action as an adult Ralphie but just couldn’t pull off the earnest panic of the iconic Jean Shepherd.
Alexandre Phaneuf, on the other hand, hit just the right mix of nerdy and needy to make the young Ralphie come alive. Madeleine DoCanto-Primeau as his whiny brother was adorable and I really enjoyed the chemistry between Christina Roman and Roy Van Hooydonk playing Ralphie’s parents. I found the female child characters annoying and one-dimensional but the duo of Ralphie’s male friends (Flick and Scut played by Jacob Segreto and Duncan Thompson respectively) were charming. Worth noting is the rotating cast of children: on alternate days, a different set of children than I saw will be playing these roles.
Overall, this was a fun homage to a holiday classic and stands in its own right as a solid piece of community theatre. Sometimes a really well done simple little show about a kid at Christmas is exactly what you need to get in the holiday spirit when the sun is bright and there’s no snow on the ground. Save the cinematic treasure for the 25th and check out the Ottawa Little Theatre version now: you’ll be glad you did.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d like to know what you think. Did Ottawa Little Theatre’s version of A Christmas Story live up to your expectations? How did you like the “Christmas present from my Aunt” scene? Which cast did you see? Join the discussion in the comments below.
A Christmas Story is presented by the Ottawa Little Theatre. It runs now through December 19th at The OLT. Visit their online box office for show times and how to buy tickets.