Parker Grubbs in A Christmas Story. Photo: CLT

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A Christmas Story

By Philip Grecian, based upon the movie A Christmas Story, written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, and Bob Clark, and the book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd.
Directed by William Strauss

A review by Jennifer Starr

Entire contents are copyright © 2023 by Jennifer Starr. All rights reserved.

A television childhood classic brought to life in an on-stage play, A Christmas Story at Clarksville Little Theatre is a freshly-baked-batch-of-cookies-feel-good-show and a fun way to kick off the holiday season. The show instantly brought me back to my youthful holidays spent with family while on school break and time prepping for a magical Christmas with loved ones. Upon arriving, the audience is treated to Christmas carols by a singing sextet of actors. It was a lovely change-up to the usual pre-show canned music and helped create a mood of holidays past.

Jason Lindsey played the Narrator, an older version of Ralphie, who tells of his childhood days as the action takes place via a series of flashbacks. Mr. Lindsey provided sweet calmness reflecting on his restless boyhood days leading up to Ralphie’s Christmas wish of an “official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time”. The play, of course being different from the movie version, provided an effective opportunity to see the live narrator interact with his memories enacted on stage.

Jason Potts delighted as The Old Man and is the true glue of this production. Mr. Potts provided the duality of a no-nonsense patriarch and loving father to his boys with many tremendous moments. He wove a tapestry of garbled curse words that made me giggle and I enjoyed his comedic timing and strong delivery. His Santa Claus was very entertaining as well. A connoisseur of the taste of red cabbage and meatloaf with a preference for them over that of Life Buoy soap, Erin McMahon gave a tender and supportive performance as The Mother. She showed a rapport with her sons and had a sweet chemistry with her husband too. I enjoyed the cheesy slapstick in the scene with the schoolteacher when Ralphie receives his theme back. The young actor playing young Ralphie, Parker Grubbs, was perfectly cast and gave a charming performance. He was devoted to his role and played the comedic and serious aspects of his character equally well. He and the narrator did a wonderful job taking on the demeanor of each other throughout the show. He is quite believable as young Ralphie.

All the actors in the supporting cast did a good job. Ralphie’s younger brother, Randy, played by Nolan Ratner, enjoyed his part and provided the family with cute little piggy noises and had some funny moments with his coat and bodily functions too. The stalwart teacher Miss Shields was warmly portrayed by Amanda Ogburn. I delighted in her wicked witch cackle. The children’s ensemble was also a highlight. They played multiple supporting roles which enhanced the story via vignettes. This group of young actors brought much-needed energy to the production. Kaelin Ouzts’ Esther Jane was tenderly developed. Madi Lindsey’s “A Student” Helen provided the juxtaposition to the average students in the school scenes though she could be a little louder with her vocal delivery. Schwartz and Flick (Ralphie’s best friends) played by Asa Milliner, and Madoc McMahon, respectively, delivered laughter and resplendent moments. Graham Sillings provided fun villainy and helped propel the story along as Scut Farkus

Technical elements that added layers to the production were a great set that made me think I was in my grandfather’s home, an effective sound design that brought to life the Bumpass hounds, fun lighting that highlighted some dreamier sequences, a good prop swap, and an excellent backstage voice for Mrs. Schwartz’s telephone conversation. I rather enjoyed the spot-on detail in the set of a 1950s Indiana home. Great period paint color, nostalgic touches, and appliances illustrated the craftsmanship.   

An awkward element of the staging was the bulky set changes which caused a drag to the show and at times left the audience in the dark for too long. I liked the use of a rolling platform set within a set, for the school, Christmas tree lot, and campfire scenes, but perhaps the house left side portion of the stage could have been used instead of all the furniture moving or some other distraction to avoid the disruptive effect. There were some clever lighting effects, but I still saw shadows cast on some actors’ faces throughout the evening.

A Christmas Story is a classic piece of Americana and is always a warm cup of cocoa that delights my soul in many ways. The messages we are left with are of comfort and joy, and the love of family, even though our family drives us crazy at times. The stuff that binds, ya know, kinda like glue, a major award, and a homemade bunny suit from our crazy aunt. The magic of the holiday season shines at Clarksville Little Theater and reminds all of us to make wishes come true for others.

Featuring Parker Grubbs, Jason Lindsey, Madi Lindsey, Erin McMahon, Madoc McMahon, Asa Milliner, Amanda Ogburn, Kaelin Ouzts, Jason Potts, Nolan Ratner, and Graham Sillings

A Christmas Story

November 10, 11, 17 & 18 @ 7:30 PM
November 12 & 19 @ 2:00 PM

Clarksville Little Theatre
301 Montgomery Avenue
Clarksville, IN 47129

Jennifer Starr is a Louisville Director, Actor, Stage Manager, and avid theatre goer with a BA in Theatre Arts with minors in Music and English from Eastern Kentucky University.  She serves on the board of directors of the Mind’s Eye Theatre Company and often assists local community theatre productions with her time and talent.