MILLBURN, NJ – "You’ll shoot you’re eye out” was the recurring phrase that little Ralphie Parker was told by his mother and teacher, every time he broached the subject of his Christmas dream present—a Red Ryder Carbine-Action BB gun, in the movie, “A Christmas Story, The Musical.” The theatrical debut, with the same name, which is currently playing at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, offers the same funny story, set to music—as a festive musical.
The Nov. 30, official press opening saw a packed theater to witness Ralphie’s Christmas adventure. Set in Indiana in the 1940’s, true to form, Ralphie had to deal with a one-legged lamp, bullies, and a cranky department store Santa, as well as with a few bloodhounds when pursuing his dream.
The true meaning of this iconic story resounded off the stage as the Parker family was pre-empted by two bloodhounds that ate their Christmas dinner. Having to relegate themselves to a Chinese restaurant for their supper, they showed the audience the true meaning of family.
Colton Maurer, who plays Ralphie, acted with a confidence befitting a Broadway veteran. With a strong voice and self-assured acting, this actor led the show with a strong ensemble of children and adults.
Ted Koch, who narrated the story of Ralphie when he was a little boy, played an integral role in keeping the audience engaged. According to reviewers, Koch has a way of making one feel like he/she is really there—experiencing every part of life in Christmas-time Indiana.
Elena Shaddow, of Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ, with her “Broadway-esque” voice, plays Ralphie’s mother. Danette Holden, who plays Ralphie’s teacher, Miss Shield, was witty and performed a lively tap dance with the children’s ensemble—that likely stole the show.
Chris Hoch, who plays “the old man,” Ralphie’s father, had the audience laughing as well as empathizing with his own dream of being “a winner” in his crossword contest.
New York City-actor Douglas Jabara, the voice coach for Gavin Swartz, who plays Grover Dell, said, “He has just bloomed and blossomed and worked very hard. He got into the show and is doing a fabulous job.”
The Swartz family, from Westwood, MA, a suburb of Boston, rented a house in the area for two months, while their son rehearsed for a month and then participated in a month of production. During their time in Millburn and away from school, Paper Mill has been paying for tutors to continue Gavin Swartz’s education so he can maintain his academics and professional career, simultaneously. This is common for young actors staring at the theater.
Like the classic movie, “A Christmas Story,” the Paper Mill musical version is also “must-see for the season” for all ages. It sets out and hits its mark of getting the audience into the holiday mood.
Shortly after curtain call, the cast party was in full swing at Martini’s Bistro and Bar, in Millburn, where they had a private party to celebrate their opening show. There was a Hollywood-like atmosphere there, as the cast, crew, management, families and the press gathered to laud the show.