Sunday, 9 December 2018

REVIEW: A Christmas Story at the Waterloo East Theatre

Pasek and Paul are best known for the Broadway hit Dear Evan Hansen and the smash hit film the Greatest Showman but the retelling of the 1983 film A Christmas Story is a show lesser known. With book by Joseph Robinson, the show focuses on Ralphie and his quest to getting the "best Christmas present" in the lead up to the big day, told by Radio DJ and narrator Jean Shepherd.

The show is nostalgic in feel and tries very hard to get that quint essential Christmas spirit. The music itself is quite catchy with a highlight being "When You're A Wimp" performed by the ensemble of children that alternate with another group throughout the run. The night I watched the part of Ralphie was played by Felix Hepburn, who gave a wonderful performance as the 9-year-old leading role. The narrator of the piece was played by Garry Freer, who made me feel as if I really was in 1980's Manhattan listening to a radio broadcast. The roles of 'Mother' and 'Old man', Ralphie's parents where played very much within the style of piece by Lucyelle Cliffe (Legally Blonde) and Simon Wilmont (Mamma Mia). Cliffe's solo song What A Mother Does in act one, was another highlight of the show, giving a different tone to the comedy and light heartedness that had been played from the start.

Jenny Gaynor as the school teacher 'Miss Shields' gave a fantastic performance through-out but her number in act two was the show stealer, her vocals were that of an old vaudeville singer and although the cabaret-style song did seem a little out of place in the show, it was without a doubt one of the best numbers. Making up the rest of the cast where: Ethan Manwaring as Ralphie's little brother Randy, Katy Stephens as Mrs Schwartz, Bradley Riches as Scut Farkus, the school bully with Alfie Turnbull, Daniel Osei, Amelia Ioannou and Alice Bonney as the children's ensemble. Special mention must go to Ethan Quinn who performs as soon as he hits the stage and doesn't stop until he is off, a real one to watch. 

Being in such a small theatre, it's hard to get the balance of staging and set
right. Director, Gerald Armin, did a wonderful job of getting this big Broadway show onto an off-west end venue, although some scene changes were clunky the set design by Oliver Harman worked very well. Choreographer Rhianne Stubbs worked hard to get everyone involved in the dance numbers but at times felt like too many people were doing too much on such a small stage, especially in You'll Shoot Your Eye out. Being in such a small venue without microphones for the cast and having a 4-piece band that is amped led by Musical director Inga Davis-Rutter, a lot of the lyrics were lost in places which did make some parts of the show hard to follow.

It's hard to not see the charm of the A Christmas Story. It's a very simple tale but one that leaves you feeling in the Christmas spirit. A real family show with something for the whole family, although it would have been nice to have watched the show with some mulled wine or hot chocolate and mince pies. 

Review by Parry St James

Rating: ★★★

Seat: L4 | Price of Ticket: £23
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