Archive for Benj Pasek
The critics were all pleasantly surprised to actually enjoy themselves at a Christmas show. Indeed, when all the best elements from the movie were transformed into silliness like kick lines with leg lamps, huge tap numbers involving a bedlam of 9-year-olds and a child who’s tongue is stuck to a flag pole, attempting not only to talk, but to sing, they couldn’t help but get carried away in the fun. Scored perfectly, directed tightly and choreographed brilliantly, even the most critical movie-aficionado and crankiest anti-Christmas Scrooge found “A Christmas Story” an absolute delight.
NEW YORK TIMES
“You’d have to have a Grinch-size heart not to feel a smile spreading across your face when Luke Spring, a 9-year-old dynamo with feathers for feet, starts tapping his little heart out in “A Christmas Story” … Clad in a sleek black suit, his high-wattage grin beaming into the auditorium, this energetic little charmer raises such a merry clatter with his nimble dancing that it all but brings down the house….“A Christmas Story,” based onthe popular 1983 movie adapted from the writings of the radio personality Jean Shepherd, wins points for being less glitzy and more soft-spoken than the garish, overbearing musical versions of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Elf.”…Shepherd narrates the stage version in the likable person of Dan Lauria, former star of the similarly nostalgic television series “The Wonder Years.” I found the heavy doses of voice-over in the rather clunky movie to be obtrusive and irritating. Happily, the stage version lightens up a little on the cute, smart-alecky asides…making room for the music and allowing the story mostly to speak for itself. Not that there’s much story to speak of….Mr. Pasek and Mr. Paul have provided a likable, perky score that duly translates all of the major episodes in the story into appropriate musical numbers…But the sequences that make the children in the audience perk up and stop fidgeting are naturally the big dance numbers led by the smaller fry in the cast…They are wonderfully showcased in a couple of fantasy numbers that are the highlights of each act, and are choreographed with invention by Warren Carlyle.”
“The show that opened Monday at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre is a charming triumph of imagination that director John Rando has infused with utter joy. It’s also a snappy piece of mature songwriting from a pair of guys barely as old as the original 1983 film. The duo, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, are making their Broadway debuts with a score that is funny, nostalgic, warm and tender…The book by Joseph Robinette honors the film…The cast is led by a multi-talented Johnny Rabe as Ralphie – some performances star Joe West in the role – and a cast of skillful children, who can give the kids over at “Annie” a run for their money. One from the ensemble – 9-year-old tap dancing prodigy Luke Spring – brings the house down during a fantasy scene in a children’s speakeasy. Warren Carlyle’s inspired choreography manages to cut the sweetness with funny tart moments, such as the use of slow motion as a nod to the musical’s roots, or pyramids of people slightly off-kilter or manic elves at a department store…Purists may be upset to miss some film elements – such as Ralphie’s decoder ring – but few will walk away thinking “A Christmas Story” has been dishonored, itself a little Christmas miracle.”
“No coal in the Christmas stocking for this entertaining family show, which sticks close to its source material while establishing an engaging personality of its own….A cut above the pack, it’s cute, corny, wholesome and sentimental – all basic requirements for family-friendly seasonal stage entertainment. But it also packs ample heart into its wistful glance back to a time when rewards were simpler, communities were closer-knit, and both parental and filial roles were less polluted by the infinite distractions and anxieties of contemporary life….Sturdily adapted by Joseph Robinette, it features a peppy, period-flavored score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. With their catchy lyrics and robust melodies, the songs strengthen the characters and situations, dropped in at just the right time to enhance and propel the story….Director John Rando and choreographer Warren Carlyle’s clever use of the dozen talented triple-threat kids in the cast is a winning ingredient. On the surface, Robinette’s work as book writer might appear elementary, but it takes skill to cover every vignette from a movie without merely checking obligatory references off a list…This is an ensemble show rather than a vehicle for star turns, but Lauria’s warmly authoritative presence provides a binding element, and Rabe gives Ralphie irrepressible spirit. Bolton deserves special mention, making Ralphie’s dad a gangly human cartoon, both gruff and affectionate….Unexpectedly, the show pulses with genuine feeling, which should guarantee return engagements.”
“Don’t expect an exact replica of the movie….The film evokes a certain screwball nature that has become as synonymous with the holiday season as candy canes. But the stage adaptation plays like a heart-tugging, best-of version of the movie, with a saccharine score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and a book by Joseph Robinette that desperately panders for laughs….The most iconic moments from the original story have been morphed into entire scenes or songs or running gags…Some of it works beautifully…Odd[ly] yes, but somehow it works. In fact, most of the songs are solid, although there are no real new Christmas classics in the mix…[but] one of the classroom kids — the tiniest, cutest one, Luke Spring — breaks into a tap routine that would draw applause from the likes of Sammy Davis Jr….The musicals’ pleasures are far and wide: Dan Lauria is steady as an older version of Ralphie, who narrates the story. Johnny Rabe, who played Ralphie at my performance (Joe West plays some performances), did a nice job of wrangling the curmudgeonly, hopeful nature of his character…The show feels too long…And Ralphie’s mom (Erin Dilly) feels like a too-sugary shell of the kookily frazzled character…on screen. And of course, the whole production is super-duper schmaltzy….For the most part, A Christmas Story: The Musical is exactly what you expect.”