Unwrapping Warmth and Laughter, ‘A Christmas Story’

Poster for Domino Theatre's production of 'A Christmas Story'. The title, playwright, company, and director are noted. The background is green with snowflakes and there is a camp whose stand is a long leg in a high heel.

Imagine going on a trip in the middle of the swamps and getting attacked by a giant snake. Now that would be the perfect time to have a Red Ryder BB gun. A Christmas Story began its run at Domino Theatre on Thursday, November 30th. Adapted by Philip Grecian and directed by Dale Jones, the play follows nine-year-old Ralphie (Blythe Hallford) who dreams about getting the treasured Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Ralphie tackles bullies, deals with crushes, and tries to implant this daring gift in his parent’s mind in a heartwarming adaptation of Jean Shepherd’s 1983 movie of the same name. 

The story centres around Ralphie’s childhood but is narrated by his older self, telling the audience this story. Tony Sturman does a splendid job as Ralph, the narrator. I can’t remember the last time I saw a performance in which one character has so much dialogue; the amount of memorization Sturman has done is something I need to commend. There were multiple times when he tripped up his words though. However, given the sheer amount of speaking parts he has and that this was opening night, I can only imagine he will get better as performances progress. 

Hallford is impressive as Ralphie, displaying emotions very well for someone so young. Flipping a switch from happy to devastated seems easy for Hallford and Ralphie’s comedic moments are played very well. Another standout performer is Jason Bowen as The Old Man, Ralphie’s father. He is used mainly for comedic purposes which he excels in through expressive movements and his ability to change his tone of voice in hilarious ways. I also want to applaud all the kids in the show as they perform extremely well, each given fairly large roles in the play.

Performers in Domino Theatre's production of 'A Christmas Story'. Four children are seen standing watching an interaction where one child is pin to the ground and another child kneels overtop of them.
Left to right: Elliot Whitehorn-Gillam, Charlee McKinlay, Madeline Hudson, Aslyn Cannon, Blythe Hallford, Violet Young in A Christmas Story. Photo sourced from Domino Theatre.

Jones’ direction is also very well done. I enjoy the way he has Sturman perform. Instead of having the narrator just in the corner addressing the audience, he appears sitting at the dinner table or walking through Ralphie’s (the younger) room, for instance. There are also some moments where Sturman is right next to the characters performing a scene, reacting to what is occurring as the audience would. He is obviously invisible to the other characters in the scene, but this makes Ralph (the older) seem like his own character and not just a person telling the audience his story.

As for the structure of the play, although charming and heartwarming, it feels disjointed. Because the narrator has so much dialogue addressing the audience, the performance seems very choppy. It can’t seem to get into a good rhythm. There are many occasions where the narrator breaks the fourth wall, a person in the scene speaks to the other characters, and then the narrator quickly addresses the audience again with a joke or snippet of information. This back-and-forth is great when executed correctly, but there are a few instances where it seems either the narrator or characters in the scene speak too soon, disrupting the flow. 

A Christmas Story is a charming and humorous play right on time for the holidays that the whole family can enjoy. The cast does a fantastic job bringing the show to life and with a few more shows under their belts, I’m sure they will fix the minor mishaps I witnessed in my viewing.

Domino Theatre’s production of ‘A Christmas Story’ plays until December 16th, 2023 and more information can be found here

This article was edited on December 4th, 2023 to reflect Jason Bowen plays Randy’s father.