A Tale of Two Christmases

It was the final month in the year, it was in the cold of winter, it was the age of 75 and a wee bit older, it was Dallas, and it was Texas.  It's the season of Christmas and thus the meeting point of tradition and present day.  In short this is the time of Christmas in our fair city that's not on a lake but rather a lazy old river.  As the Trinity goes so can you, stopping through the city to see two wonderful classic productions.  One is another well known Dickens work and the other is a film given long life on TV, they both teach similar lessons.  So click on through for my full reviews of Dallas Summer Musicals' A Christmas Story and the Dallas Theater Center's A Christmas Carol.

Isn't it amazing how a sultry leg lamp, a pink rabbit suit, and a Red Ryder bb gun connect us to one of the great Christmas traditions of the last few decades.  The fine folks at DSM have taken the steps to make the 1983 film into a vibrant equally enjoyable and even surprising adaption meant to be seen in Music Hall in Fair Park.  The basic story structure and memorable scenes are all in this production.  Radio icon as the narrator, Ralphie and Randy with Mom and Pa, those damn dogs next door ruining the meal, and of course a tongue meeting a pole.

A Christmas Story got nominated for 3 Tony's (including Best Musical) and 6 Drama Desk Award nominations for its run on Broadway and now it's ventured on down south to our famous hall of music.  The musical has two Ralphie's, depending on which performance you attend, with Evan Gray and Colton Maurer putting on the glasses and firing that darn gun that puts their eye out every time.  The night I went Colton was downright adorable and stoic as the always mature Ralphie and he mixed wonderfully with his little brother Randy (Cal Alexander).  But the fun of a musical is the famous "voice" that is Jean Shepherd has a full presence on stage with Chris Carsten putting on a sweater and letting his radio voice take us through the story.  Susannah Jones and Christopher Swan both are wonderful as Mother and The Old Man.  

ChristmasStory_Poster_Web

With all of this said, why should you come out to see the musical rather than just watching the film on TV?  Well, it's the kids!  The real treat of the Dallas Summer Musicals 75th season opening production is the amazing ensemble songs that the kids put on.  The above video of the famous frozen tongue on a pole is absolutely brilliantly recreated on the stage.  But there is a sequence where the baddie that is Grover Dill (Seth Judice) gets to tap dance.  It's an additional element only the musical has and it's worth the show by itself.  DSM has chosen the perfect opening musical for such a historical year as it's 75th Season! 

The Wyly Theater, like most theaters throughout the world, is putting on it's take on the classic A Christmas Carol.  The Dallas Theater' Center has staged the production many times over the decades back at the Kalita Humphrey's Theater and now is making it's mark at the state-of-the-art Wyly Theater.  This year's production is Directed by Lee Trull and has a few fresh elements that make it a real must see.  First off, a warning, there isn't an intermission so be prepared to witness scrooge's journey in a brisk 90 minutes. 

DTCs A Christmas Carol  Chamblee Ferguson, Reed Emmons  by Karen Almond

Scrooge is played by Chamblee Ferguson who gives a great duel performance as the menacing evil old man who doesn't know ghosts and than as a lovable singing uncle who fully knows the reality of the angels from beyond.  The production has the regular moments we all know by heart and they fit in nicely.  But, the real fun of this production is in these three style choices.

1.  The presence of multiple caroling scenes.  From the opening line we realize this production will allow us to just sit back and listen to the carols that embody the story of Christmas.  Dickens original story version lacked the real musical quality and only contained one real carol.  So the fact that this production belts out some classic carols not always associated with this particular classic production is both fitting and bold.  It also allows for the unique quality of having live instruments played by the talent themselves.  For instance, Cameron Cobb (Ghost of Marley/Young Marley) not only dawns chains but he gets to play a mean guitar in the show.  Fred played by Seth Magil even breaks out a tuba at one point.  Now add in the greatness of Mr. and Mrs Fezziwig (John Flores and Julie Johnson) and you have one heck of a good time. 

2.  The Wyly theater's real power in the Arts District is its ability to completely transform to anything and everything.  With each production the DTC has a chance to do whatever they want when it comes to setting.  Instead of babbling on how about checking out this video breakdown of the creating of this set!

3.  Humor is the final addition.  Every Christmas Carol has its built in moments of nostalgia, but it takes a real wit to make certain elements funny.  Chamblee works so amazingly well off his fellow actors that he has some real moments of comedic genius.  He even, during our production, had to quiet the crowd to get in one final joke involving him playing a little uke.  But the real treat of the production is a simple scene with Julie Johnson (Mrs. Dilber) and Scrooge after he's awoken from his final ghostly visitor.  It's witty and even a bit naughty with Julie's responses and gets some of the biggest laughs in the entire production.  Overall the ability of this production to venture into the sorrowful moments and then come out with a smile and joke to boot really make this so enjoyable.

DTC's A Christmas Carol  Julie Johnson, Chamblee Ferguson  by Karen Almond USE

DTC's run of A Christmas Carol luckily runs through Xmas weekend so go ahead and add it to your calendar.  More info, here.

DSM's run of A Christmas Story ends this upcoming weekend. More info, here.

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