A Christmas Story
Hot Summer Nights, N.C. Theatre & Broadway Series South
Through Dec. 24
I’m always a bit leery of recommending a new holiday show. If its producers make it work the first time, we’ll likely be seeing it again. And again. But with A Christmas Story, that really doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.
Jean Shepherd’s autobiographical tale, immortalized in the early-’80s film starring the chubby-cheeked Peter Billingsley, relates his memories of a lower-middle-class Christmas in Indiana in the 1940s. Amid the threats of bullies, the mystery of girls, the bizarre rituals of double and triple dog dares, and the everyday chaos at home, our narrator clings to one Christmas wish above all: a Red Ryder BB gun. He’s repeatedly thwarted on all sides (besides, he’ll put an eye out with it) until all hope is gone, when …
But to say more would spoil the fun for a new generation that hasn’t come across the story yet. Strong performances anchor this joint venture between Hot Summer Nights, N.C. Theatre and Broadway Series Southand with results this good, that trio should plan for future collaborations. T. Philip Caudle is warm and avuncular as a present-day Ralph, looking back on his youthful alter ego, played by Langdon Ogburn. Bill Yates Jr. is energetic as Ralph’s father, while Andrea Schulz Twiss combines scatterbrain and no-nonsense as Mom. Sandi Sullivan fills out a robust teacher, Miss Shields, while Michael Perez grabs our attention and sympathies as the hapless Flick. William Alan Coats’ direction is brisk, and his feeling for his characters is clear in this warm holiday offering. We’ll see it again.