The Musical “at MTKC Pro is an animated version of the classic holiday movie – KC STUDIO
The cast of “A Christmas Story: The Musical” (courtesy MTKC Pro)
After more than a year and a half of virtual theatrical productions and intimate, socially distanced performances, it’s a bit of a shock to the system to find yourself in a packed house watching a cast of over 30 actors sing and dance their own. to your heart’s content. For those thirsty to return to the blockbuster big time theater, MTKC Pro’s production of A Christmas story is a fun, large-scale holiday spectacle.
The show is anchored by Marshall Rimann as the narrator, who is both the adult version of the young protagonist Ralphie recalling his childhood as well as the radio personality and A Christmas story designer Jean Shepherd. Rimann seemed to struggle a bit with his overwhelming line load, but still managed to effectively move the piece forward and grab the audience’s attention from the jump, despite a few noticeable obstacles.
The space MTKC Pro occupies inside the Shawnee B&B Cinema is a unique and exciting performance arena. It comes with large, well-maintained facilities and ample space for the large-scale show cast and full orchestra on stage, and the company makes great use of the movie screen, projecting representative backgrounds and images. creative in a way that doesn’t distract, but enhances the overall aesthetic.
But putting on a piece live in a movie theater comes with its fair share of challenges, which are that a lot of people will treat it like a movie theater. Along with more phone conversations and checks than you might expect during a typical live show, there were also an incredible number of latecomers seated throughout the opening scenes. Rimann, with a very soothing radio voice a la Garrison Keillor, managed to hold the audience’s attention during the disruption, even with a lighting design that inexplicably kept him in the dark whenever he left the stool. his narrator in these first scenes.
These kinds of issues quickly resolved and the room quickly settled into a delicious rhythm. The musical is, for the most part, a scene-by-scene recreation of the 1983 film, following young Ralphie as he yearns for his ultimate dreamy Christmas present: a Red Ryder BB Gun.
The play follows the film so closely that the songs are sometimes wonderfully fun, sometimes totally superfluous. (They also serve to add a considerable amount to the short length of the movie and things start to get a bit tiring towards the end of the second half.) It reminded me of a quote from the legendary Stephen Sondheim, who once said “A song has to be needed to tell the story. If you can release the song and it doesn’t leave a hole, then the song is unnecessary.
If you believe this to be true, then this kind of musical, which is an adaptation of an already existing property and fully effective, has an innate problem. None of these songs are necessary tell the story because the story already exists without them. The more they can be is a little more fun and luckily the songs of A Christmas Story: The Musical are these. It also helps that the cast that features them are immensely talented.
Ralphie is played by Kamryn Hendersen, a fifth grade student from Blue Springs with an incredible pipe playing, as well as a strong stage presence and a lot of charm. Henderson is already expected to play the title role in Olivier at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theater next month and he’s, for sure, a young actor to watch on the Kansas City theater scene.
In fact, the young talents on display in this production are amazing on every level. MTKC Pro has managed to compile a set of over a dozen young people (elementary and middle school aged) triple threats – or maybe quadruple threats if you count their comedic skills in addition to acting, singing. and traditional dance. Not to undermine the great talent of the adult cast, but to be so charmed by a group of kids is a fantastic thing.
In all fairness, it’s possible it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen such an important ensemble perform live on stage – and it seems important to note that besides having the biggest cast and the most mainstream audience that I’ve seen at a theater in recent years, the MTKC and the B&B Theater also don’t have COVID-19 restrictions in place, but even so the result is a wonderful experience.
“A Christmas Story: The Musical”, an MTKC Pro production, runs through December 19 at B&B Live, 16301 Midland Dr, Shawnee, KS. For more information visit mtkc.org.