reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Before last year’s Elf, B&B always presented its traditional holiday show – A Beef and Boards Christmas. Once again, the management at central Indiana’s premiere dinner theatre has decided to make a change for this holiday season. One of America’s favorite Christmas movies has long been 1983’s A Christmas Story. This nostalgic tale of young Ralphie and his family has become its own holiday tradition, and once it opened as a Broadway musical in 2012 with a book by Joseph Robinette, and music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, its reach increased by a large measure.

Ralphie (Ben Kistner), left, is forced to utter “uncle” by bully Scut Farkus (Austin Lizama) as his toady Grover Dill (Dylan Acquaviva) watches in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of A Christmas Story: The Musical.

B&B’s production of A Christmas Story – The Musical , directed by Eddie Curry with choreography by Ron Morgan, is a cheerful seasonal entertainment that combines all the story segments from the film version with a good supply of lively and lovely songs. Ralphie’s quest for a Red Ryder BB gun as his Christmas present is at the very center of the show. The iconic lead is rendered with tremendous skill by 7th grader Ben Kistner, who handles the comedy, emotion, and songs of the role with a deft hand. His clear and powerful singing voice is a wonderful surprise which arrives early, during his very first scene.

The Old Man (Don Farrell), center, gleefully sings about the “major award” he received for entering a crossword puzzle contest in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of A Christmas Story: The Musical.

Ralphie’s father, “The Old Man” in Jean Shepherd’s remembrance, is offered by Don Farrell. In Farrell’s hands – with a bow to Darren McGavin – the man is the same lovably frustrated character, trying to make the best of his less than perfect life. Farrell’s outstanding work in “A Major Award”, where he wins the fishnet stockinged leg lamp, is a highlight of the show. At his side, Ralphie’s steady Mother, sweetly played by Amy Bodnar, balances the family dynamic. Ms. Bodnar is touching in her portrayal, and her tender renditions of “What a Mother Does” and “Just Like That” are great moments. Fender Brokamp completes the central family with a worthy stage debut.

Other standouts include Eddie Curry as our Narrator; Lanene Charters, as immoderate school teacher, Miss Shield; Brett Mutters as the grouchy department store Santa; and Austin Lizama as bully-boy, Scut Farkus. Ms. Charters leads a remarkable ensemble tap dance number with a cadre of young tappers in Ralphie’s fantasized “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out”.

Ralphie (Ben Kistner), right, reluctantly dons his gift from Aunt Clara to the amusement of his family (from left), Mother (Amy Bodnar), the Old Man (Don Farrell), and Randy (Fender Brokamp) in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of A Christmas Story: The Musical

Kristy Templet leads her fine orchestra through the lively score with polish and spark; Jill Kelly Howe’s colorful costumes more than fill the bill; and to top the experience off, Chef Odell Ward has assembled a very tasty holiday buffet featuring roast turkey, cornbread stuffing, sweet potato souffle and brussels sprouts in a cream sauce topped with bacon. It is all truly outstanding!

Bottomline: Though I’ve always enjoyed B&B’s traditional holiday show in the past, I have to admit – it was a great idea to make a change with this sweet, funny family tale of Christmas. The performances are first-rate, and the holiday spirit is there for the taking.

Mother (Amy Bodnar) wipes the tears of Ralphie (Ben Kistner) after his first fist fight and sings “Just Like That” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of A Christmas Story: The Musical.

A Christmas Story – The Musical runs through Dec. 31st. As you read this and make the decision to attend – there is one important matter to note. I learned from B&B Marketing Director, Patricia Rettig, that the show is selling very, very well, and if you wish to go, you should be quick about obtaining tickets. The fastest, easiest way to do so is to use the theatre’s new online reservation service. Just go to http://www.beefandboards.com (24 hrs a day) – and scroll down to the “What’s on Stage” section. Then click on the “More Info” button, and pick a date to choose your seats and make your reservation. Of course, if you would rather, you may also call the box office at 317.872.9664. Whichever you choose to do – do not delay!

Have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderfully Happy New Year – from all of us at A Seat on the Aisle!

  • photos by Julie Curry