You could point out to fans of A Christmas Story that cherished holiday films almost never work onstage. You might also tell a kid who dreams of owning a Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot Range Model air rifle that he’ll shoot his eye out. Some warnings are destined to fall on deaf ears.
So expect full houses this month at Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, where Ralphie, played with a pro’s confidence by local seventh-grader Michael Van Schoik, once again sets out to foil the skeptics, outsmart the Old Man and find that peerless peacemaker under the tree on Christmas morning.
Philip Grecian’s play, based on Jean Shepherd’s Depression-era childhood recollections — captured in a low-budget 1983 movie that became a cultural icon — adds a few forgettable scenes to the ones we remember so well. Most significantly (and needlessly), this stage version gives Ralphie a human love interest. This schoolyard romance only distracts from the real love stories of A Christmas Story, namely Ralphie’s yearning for a real BB gun, the quirky but genuine affection between Ralphie’s parents and the whole family’s passion for Christmas and everything that goes with it.
The turkey, the presents, the sensuous glow of a Major Award in the front window — it’s all here, for better or worse. Director Tim Perrino and company struggle under the weight of too many cinematic episodes: Santa’s mountain looks great but threatens to melt before the crew can get it offstage. Brandon Wentz, as grown-up Ralph, handles the lengthy narration well but loses the intimacy of the movie’s voice-over in this barn of a theater.
Even so, Covedale’s A Christmas Story is often funny and never painful. Getting your tongue stuck to a frozen flagpole, on the other hand....
A CHRISTMAS STORY, presented by the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, continues through Dec. 22. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.