Entertainment

A Christmas Story – Family favourite returns to Theatre Orangeville

December 6, 2018   ·   0 Comments

Written By CONSTANCE SCRAFIELD

For pure fun,  Theatre Orangeville’s production of A Christmas Story gives the audience all it could want. On now and running until December 23, A Christmas Story tells the tale of young Ralphie, who sincerely wants a Red Ryder B.B. Gun for Christmas, all the while taking us through the days of his middle American boyhood life and poking fun at the lot.

Acting as guide is Ralphie’s older self, Ralph, who breaks the fourth wall throughout, to put his own spin on the action, with very entertaining commentary, for this is a Christmas that Ralph remembers as being special to him.

Deftly played by Theatre Orangeville’s much loved regular, Jamie Williams, it is proving an interesting difference to a role that breaks the fourth wall but does not actually interact with the other characters, so Mr. Williams told us at the opening night reception.

“It’s been fun getting used to it,” he said.

All the characters in the play are a little off the wall, making it laugh-filled. In particular, Ralphie’s father, who is referred to as “the Old Man,” goes into spasms of, apparently, streams of cussing, all of which is just cuss-sounding words, in fact completely inoffensive (something about roasting pans, at one point, we believe), when the furnace breaks down or the car has a flat tire.

The Old Man is a caricature of a person brought to the stage with almost vaudevillian humour by Jeremy Lapalme, making his debut here on Theatre Orangeville’s main stage. The Old Man suffers the sweets and thorns of suburban life and fatherhood to two sons, silly and very amusing.

Enter the famous Leg Lamp, a prize won by the Old Man’s habitual entries into a weekly local quiz contest. It arrives by courier and he sets it up in front of the living room window for all to see and admire, so proud is he of his achievement in winning it.

Jane Spence plays the part of his patient wife, called Mother, as her relationship in memory and fact to Ralph, the story teller, and his younger self, is looked on as the greater part of her 1950’s life. Her usual charming self, Ms Spence delivers Mother with humour and grace.

The play deals with Ralphie’s outside life as well, including his pals, Flick and Schwartz, his would be “girl friend,” Esther Jane, and her friend, Helen; their teacher, Miss Shields and the bully, Skud Farkas.

Back to his alumni, Theatre Orangeville, comes Liam MacDonald, following a triumphant year of theatre performance with Mirvish and making two movies. Liam is in the role of Ralphie, longing for that Red Ryder BB gun, every inch of the way.

Ralphie’s younger brother is a comical misfit, always hiding in strange places or placing funny comments where they don’t belong. Liam Sourtzis, here for the first time, makes a great joke of his role and adds to the fun of it.

The kids are all great. Sarah and Sophie Warren, sisters in fact, play respectively, Esther Jane and Schwartz. Esther Jane is constant in her admiration for Ralphie and, in the end, saves him from being in big trouble.

Abby Ayranto is Helen, one of the gang, part of the energy that makes this show so wonderful to enjoy.

Otherwise, they tease and torture each other, especially Skut, the bully. Hayden Reynolds handles this part with attitude and menace. You knew one such when you went to elementary school. It seemed standard that every school had a bully of Skut’s ilk, almost as though administrators planned it. Skut twists arms and humiliates until….

Welcome back, as ever, to Debbie Collins as Miss Shields, the children’s teacher. The characters all have metaphorical clowns’ noses in this play and Ms Collins makes us laugh with Miss Shields’ old fashioned straight-laced ways.

Poor Ralphie struggles with frustration of trying to get things right and flunking out, as he sees himself.  Whomever he tells about wanting his Red Ryder B.B gun for Christmas, he is warned that  he will “shoot his eye out,” even by the mall’s Santa Claus.

Liam’s Ralphie takes it all with a fine balance of funny and furious.

This is Theatre Orangeville’s third production of A Christmas Story over many years and it is quite different from the others, without changing the story or its format. Makes  a fresh look at it.

The set, designed by Beckie Morris and executed by her creative team, is terrific, placing us inside and out as needed, everything fitting together so cleverly. The lighting is Jennifer Lennon’s work. Her lighting is so natural as to lift and lower the mood with the story without intruding.

Directed by David Nairn, also Artistic Director, he has brought a good flow to the play, keeping the action tidy and the comic timing just right. Saying it is easy but this is a cast of 11 characters and a longer rehearsal time, as well as many more performances than the other shows during the season. To get it all so right and launch the play on its nearly month’s run garners real kudos to the director and the entire gang of cast and creative team.

A Christmas Story plays until December 23, with the Relaxed Performance on Tuesday, December 11. For tickets and information, go to the Box Office at 87 Broadway or the Information Centre on Buena Vista at Hwy 10; by telephone on 519-942-3423 or online

         

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