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'A Christmas Story' is a classic

To find the holiday spirit, theater goers look no further than "A Christmas Story" now playing at The Horton Theatre.

With the breath of seasons past, it is a nostalgic retelling of youthful wishes in simpler times. It's that time in a child's life when parents have absolute power.

Yet, 9-year-old Ralphie has a plan to out-maneuver them, because everyone knows there is one person who can overrule a parent's decision.

Ralphie's plan is to go straight to the man. Santa Claus will bring him his heart's desire. He just needs to get to the head of the line before the department store closes.

Based on the 1983 film written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark, the book was written for the stage by Joseph Robinette along with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

Kirsten Chandler directed this merry adventure through Terra Haute, Indiana, with grace and humor. She selected a marvelous cast of actors and singers who can break into a time step with ease.

Narrated by Steve Gunderson, he tells his story about growing up in middle America with his old man, played by Jake Millgard; his mother, played by Heidi Meyer, and a bothersome-tag-along little brother called Randy, played by Abraham German. His younger self is called Ralphie and is played by J.P. Wishchuk.

The iconic film characters are forgotten when this family comes together. Ralphie's double takes are impeccable. Randy is a perfect annoying little brother. Motherhood flows all over the stage while the old man kicks, grunts and grumbles. It's a classic.

The truly talented ensemble is led by none other than Barbara Schoenhofer as Miss Shields, Ralphie's teacher. Schoenhofer always brings her "A" game.

The other children in Ralphie's class include Milly Cocanig as Mary Beth, Hayden Crocker as Thomas, JoJo Eddington as Scut Farkus, Holland Hartpence as Nancy, Joshua Hitchcock as Grover Dill, Spencer Kearns as Schwartz, Mark Maheffey as Flick, Lauren Livia Muehl as Lillian Rose, Isabella Pruter as Ester Jane and Talia Silver as Kathleen.

Filling in the rest of the characters is Jullian Barnett as Nancy, Chris Bona as Santa Claus, Drew Bradford as the Doctor, Morgan Carberry as the Nurse, Patrice Crosbie as Flick's Mother, Emma Nossal as Mrs. Schwartz, Trevor Rex as the Chief Elf and Aaron Morgan Shaw as the Fireman.

Here is one of the great things about this cast. While we expect adults to be good, decent dancers, rest assured this cast of little steppers can stay up with Schoenhofer. For those who don't know her work, she is a top-notch-first-class hoofer and these children stay with her for every syncopated tap.

Not to be overlooked is conductor Don LeMaster. His exceptional musicality intensifies the enjoyment of every production as he leads these merry, music makers through the score. It is a huge band tucked overhead in the theater's loge. They are to be praised. Starting with Billy Edwall and Kevin Wilde on trumpet, Shirley Coggon and Kaelyn Henderson on trombone; the stick man is Don Kuhl. On keys is Steve Withers and Michelle Gray while the reeds are played by Mark Margolies, Gerard Nolan and Arianna Warren. Tim Glaude is on bass and Mike Dooley is the percussionist. The whole adds up to a masterful show band.

"A Christmas Story" is indeed a happy time to snag the grandchildren, over 6 years old, to give them a peek into your childhood. It is a perfect family show. If this is the only thing you do to entertain out-of-town guests this season, you will be the hero.

Book early for the best seats. I, for one, love a matinee. Parking is just across the street at a garage. Go to the San Diego Musical Theater website and follow the link. When you arrive at the garage, even if the sign says "full," as a prepaid guest you will get in. The price to park is discounted through the website. Always get a ticket from the attendant so you can get in the side door to access the elevator after the performance.

"A Christmas Story" plays until Dec. 29 at The Horton Theater, 444 Fourth Street, in downtown San Diego. The box office can be reached at (858) 560-5740 or visit

This show is rated 10 out of 10.

Elizabeth Youngman Westphal can be reached at [email protected].


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