A Christmas Story: The Musical – Episode #120 – December 17, 2020
JESS: Hello, I'm Jesse McAnally.
ANDREW: And I am Andrew DeWolf.
JESS: And welcome to Musicals with Cheese, a podcast where I try to get Andrew to like musical theater. How are we doing today?
ANDREW: We fired Bree. She's gone forever.
JESS: No, no, no. Most of our patrons know that we record these in one session. So, if Bree’s not in one, she's not in both. She'll be back next week.
ANDREW: Yeah, but do all of our fans know that?
JESS: They'll find out about it. So, she'll be back next week. But you know what? You know why Bree isn't here? You know, I think we should lay the cards on the table.
ANDREW: Yeah, we should just tell them. Okay. She stuck her tongue to a pole and it was very cold. And honestly, she's in the hospital. They had to remove her tongue. They're going to give her a prosthetic. But that's just kind of what happened.
JESS: And you know what happened three days after her tongue healed? Because that's not the reason why she's not here. Like, it was her birthday. She got her brand new Red Ryder BB Gun. She took it outside and she immediately shot her eye out.
ANDREW: Actually, what I heard is that an icicle actually fell on her and she wasn't able to move out of the way in time.
JESS: She shot her eye out, Andrew.
ANDREW: I heard that an icicle fell on her and she wasn't able to move out of the way in time.
JESS: This week, we're talking about A Christmas Story: The Musical. Cue the music, Bree.
(You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out plays)
ANDREW: (sings) Why is this a musical? Wasn’t the movie enough?
JESS: A Christmas Story: The Musical is a musical with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, with a book by Joseph Robinette, based on the 1985 film A Christmas Story by Bob Clark and Jean Shepherd. It premiered on Broadway in November 19, 2012 for a limited run and closed on December 30, 2012. It was nominated for three Tony Awards and won none. The plot is: “This classic holiday tale centers on a mischievous, bespectacled boy, Ralphie, who dreams of getting a BB-gun for Christmas. In the weeks before the big holiday, Ralphie, his friends and his family get into all kinds of shenanigans — including run-ins with a bully with "yellow eyes," a tongue stuck to a flag pole, a bar of soap in the mouth, a garish leg lamp, a major award and a Chinese Christmas dinner.” I don’t like that because the major award is the leg lamp. Like, those two are the same.
ANDREW: They’re trying to diminish the quality of his major award by not telling you what it is.
ANDREW: Which, honestly, everyone in the show is doing that as well. I mean, he won a major award, and his wife doesn't even seem to care.
JESS: Yes, she breaks it in fact.
ANDREW: She breaks it. Which is honestly despicable.
JESS: She breaks the symbol of his hubris. She might as well have broke his dick off.
ANDREW: Honestly. That's basically what the show is about. It's a show about demasculation.
JESS: It's about a little boy that wants a gun so badly.
ANDREW: Honestly, though, Christmas Story - if you haven't seen this movie, I mean, where? Where have you been?
JESS: Alright, Andrew. What is your history with the Christmas Story movie that this is based on?
ANDREW: I have seen it probably 20 times at this point. I've watched it maybe - And I don't love it. It's just, this thing airs so much during Christmas time. It's like, you cannot go an entire holiday season without watching this movie. It's just not possible.
JESS: No. But do you know why? Because this wasn't a successful movie when it came out.
ANDREW: Honestly, I don't know why. I will say this - I didn't mention - I do like this movie. I think it's actually one of my - maybe my favorite - holiday movie. Other than weird horror movie movies like Krampus. But I think that this movie is a very cynical and interesting way of looking at the holidays and I really enjoy it.
JESS: it's very satirical but it also is very sincere in some ways and a lot of weird ways.
ANDREW: It's sincere but not in the way that most holiday movies are. Like, it's not sincere like, “Oh, love saves the day and - ”
JESS: No, nothing like that.
ANDREW: No, it's honestly - it's more sincere like, “Hey, kids like to get stuff and - ”
JESS: I mean, the thing is, this also kind of is a love letter to capitalism, the movie.
ANDREW: I don't know if I agree with that. But sure.
JESS: Because what is the first thing we see when the movie opens? We see toys and a lot of them and a lot of corporate sponsorship and shit.
ANDREW: See, but - the way I look at it though, a lot of it is satirical. Like, the mall Santa, who, of you're arguing this is about how capitalism is great, the mall Santa is the symbol of it. He's embodied, but he's a nightmare and he kicks the kid down the slide, you know? Like, I don't know if it's necessarily saying that all this stuff is a good thing. It's just saying that like, “Hey, this is how it is.”
JESS: Yeah, well, the thing is, everyone in this film - except maybe the mom - worships material shit.
ANDREW: Yes, but none of it is shown in a positive light.
JESS: It’s not shown in a negative light either. The last shot of the film is Ralphie sleeping in bed with a gun.
ANDREW: Yeah, which is satirical if anything. It's like, “Hey, he got what he wanted and what he wanted was a gun and now he's laying in bed with a gun.”
JESS: Mission accomplished.
ANDREW: I don't know. I don't necessarily think that this is a love letter to Christmas corporate culture.
JESS: It has become that, then, with all the Christmas Story 2s, the Christmas Story: Live, and the Christmas Story lamps that you can buy, the Christmas Story house where you can buy all the materials that you've seen in the Christmas Story movie.
ANDREW: Yes, but that is just a product of existing in capitalism. I mean, Parasite is being sold as a product and they're making money off of that. But obviously, if you watch that movie, it is anything but a love letter to capitalism, you know?
JESS: Yeah. That should be a musical. Parasite would be a good musical.
ANDREW: Actually, yes. That was a really good movie, by the way.
JESS: Yeah, go see Parasite.
ANDREW: Have we ever talked about it?
JESS: We’ve briefly mentioned it but Parasite’s good. Would you believe it? It won Best Picture. It might be a good movie.
ANDREW: Yeah, maybe. I mean, not every movie that wins Best Picture is good, but -
JESS: La La Land won it for a couple minutes.
ANDREW: Yeah, that's true. La La Land wasn't that bad, but I don't know if it's Best Picture worthy.
JESS: No, I like Moonlight better. But, I want to talk about why this movie became such a mainstay for Christmas. Because it came out, it flopped. It was a badly-reviewed, badly-received flop.
JESS: But it was one of the few films made by MGM that had a Christmas tie to it. So, when Ted Turner of Turner Broadcasting created the TBS network, around the holidays, he only had one movie to air so he aired it every night and then aired it for 24 hours over the Christmas Eve from 8pm to Christmas Day at 8pm.
ANDREW: So literally, people watched it so many times that they're like, “Yes, this movie is good.”
JESS: Exactly. It was literally, through the mainstay of what television rights this guy owned and was able to put on his TV station. That is the only reason why we know about this film.
ANDREW: Yeah, I mean, honestly I do think it's a pretty good movie. And I don't think that's just because I've seen it so many times. But you know, I could be wrong. I don't think it’s amazing. But it's got something to it. There's some elements that I like.
JESS: Any film that makes you feel uncomfortable to watch as a kid but makes you feel different when you're an adult - there's something there.
JESS: But does it adapt to a musical, Andrew?
ANDREW: I always love to bring up that, uh - maybe I'm wrong on this. I'm pretty certain. No, this is directed by the same guy that made Black Christmas.
JESS: Bob Clark, yeah.
ANDREW: Yep. So, he's made two Christmas movies.
JESS: And they're both equally good. I really like Black Christmas too.
ANDREW: Yeah, and honestly, I think some people might be surprised to hear that. But honestly, if you think about that, like “Hey, this guy made it a slasher movie about Christmas.” I feel like the tone of it is not that far off.
JESS: No, no. That film... A Christmas Story feels dark and I don't know what exactly feels dark, but – Like, the fantasies feel strangely violent and masochistic?
ANDREW: Well, they are. His fantasy is to have a gun.
JESS: Oh, speaking of which - hold on, hold on. We gotta pause. Andrew, you let the Christmas in. Do you hear it?
(The Christmas comes in)
JESS: Oh my god, this is a Christmas episode. Oh my god. Christmas is all around us.
ANDREW: Oh my god. Christmas music is literally just the jingle bells. You can play any chords in any kind of music and just put jingle bells and it's a Christmas song.
JESS: (sings) Simply having a wonderful Christmas time.
ANDREW: See, that's not a Christmas song cus there’s no jingle bells.
JESS: There is.
(Jess sings it again and adds jingle sounds)
ANDREW: Can we play Jingle Bells throughout the whole episode here? Just add it in. Add in post. Bree, where are you?
JESS: No, Bree. Don't do that.
(Jingle Bells plays)
JESS: Bree, stop. Don’t listen to him. I pay you, not him.
(Jungle Bells fades)
ANDREW: Jingle Bells, add Jingle Bells.
(Jingle Bells plays again)
JESS: I pay you, not him.
(Jingle Bells fades)
JESS: So, does this adapt well into a musical Andrew?
JESS: Question mark?
ANDREW: It's like almost yes, but I'm gonna say no.
JESS: All right. I think it's worth mentioning that we need to talk about who wrote this musical.
ANDREW: Oh, yes. I do know who it is now, but I'll act surprised. Ready?
JESS: Okay. Okay. So, we've covered a good majority of their music. We've covered almost all except for one or two of their shows. And it is a Benj Pasek and Justin Paul who did Dear Evan Hansen, Dogfight, and a bunch of other ones. But those are the two big ones.
ANDREW: These are both shows that we loved.
JESS: And The Greatest Showman is another big one. We haven't covered that one yet. But that is –
ANDREW: We'll have to cover that soon.
JESS: Oh, and La La Land. They did the lyrics for La La Land. So, it's weird. This is not the same style that I'm used to hearing from them. This is very pastiche to old 50s music.
ANDREW: Yeah, it's like they're trying to make it seem like it's a classic musical?
JESS: It - Yeah.
ANDREW: Which maybe has something to do with the fact that it's a Christmas show? And people like to think of Christmas stuff is timeless. And I think the word timeless right now just means 1950s.
JESS: But the thing is, because they're aiming for that style, I think this is my favorite score by them.
ANDREW: Yeah, honestly, I didn't know it was by them. I'm not surprised like when you told me that it was them. But it would not have been my first guess. Not at all.
JESS: No. But I don't think they do a bad job. And they were really young. They had to have been right out of college, right after this, to get such a high-profile job like this.
ANDREW: You know what kind of kind of got me with the music little bit? That they had fantasy sequences, but they didn't really change the music at all. And I kind of wish they had.
JESS: Sometimes they did. Like the Ralphie to the Rescue sounds like a cowboy song.
ANDREW: I would have liked more of a open West feel for that one. Honestly. It's fine. All right. Do we need to go over the plot?
JESS: I mean, I'd like Andrew’s description of what happens in this musical, to be honest.
ANDREW: All right, I'm gonna try to describe the musical version because the movie is a bit different. Though, honestly, I'll probably end up describing it in a way that just fits both of them. Let's see. The story is about Ralphie, who is also the narrator but he's narrating from the future. He's telling it as if he is telling the audience a story from his past like, “Oh, this is my Christmas story.” Right?
JESS: Yeah. Now, sometimes he's Matthew Broderick.
ANDREW: Sometimes, not always, though. Not the one I saw. So I don't care.
JESS: Did you watch the clip of Matthew Broderick doing it?
A: I did, in the - No, we're not going to talk about that.
JESS: Fair. It's bad. Bree, play a clip.
(Matthew Broderick does Matthew Broderick)
ANDREW: We don't need the deer in headlights for this one. All right. Um, Ralphie wants a BB gun for Christmas. And that's it. And then a bunch of misadventures happen. It's honestly less of a story as much of it is a bunch of vignettes that kind of link together. So, you have the bullies on the streets that they have to deal with. You have him writing a essay for class about how he wants a BB gun. You have him swearing accidentally, and being punished for it.
JESS: Child abused for it.
ANDREW: Child abused for it. I'll get into that. I'll defend that. That's child abuse. And then, of course, at the end, you have him getting the gun.
JESS: Shooting his eye out. Breaking his glasses.
JESS: Racism and then the show wraps up.
ANDREW: Yes, I can't remember – is the racism in the movie as well? I feel like it probably –
JESS: Of course it is.
ANDREW: I honestly, after he gets the gun, I kind of zone out and just kind of -
JESS: That's the reason why you stay after the gun - is for the fa-ra-ra-ra or like, that horrible shit.
ANDREW: Oh, the fa-ra-ra-ra-ra.
JESS: You need to be reminded that that shit happened in the 80s. And we let that shit happen.
ANDREW: Dude, the 80s were awful, like racism and homophobia.
JESS: Just open sexual assaults. Like, remember Revenge of the Nerds, where like, they literally just attack naked women? And it's okay, because they're nerds?
ANDREW: I was just watching some videos or something on YouTube. And somebody showed a clip of Ronald Reagan's press secretary talking about the AIDS crisis. And he was asked a question and his response was to mock the journalist by asking if he has AIDS. It's like, I'm just reminded of - man, nothing has changed.
JESS: Yeah, nothing really has changed is the thing. “What, you got corona? Oh, I see. You want to be politically correct.”
ANDREW: Yeah, it's like, my god. And anybody who says Ronald Reagan was a great president - like, wow.
JESS: Is a dumb piece of shit.
ANDREW: You should look up some of the stuff he did.
JESS: Trickle-down economics is a horrible thing. The AIDS crisis. Yeah, he basically fucked up everything he tried.
ANDREW: Yeah. Okay. But other than that –
JESS: But he acted with a monkey when he was a Hollywood star, so really - Who's the villain?
ANDREW: Now that's progressive.
JESS: Um, so thank you for your wonderful summation of what this story is about. So, I don't know what it is about this musical adaptation, but it gets me. I kind of love it.
ANDREW: I honestly, I really liked the movie better. I think it’s more succinct.
JESS: Oh, the movie is so much better. But I think I like this.
ANDREW: Okay, major problem I have with this show.
ANDREW: Okay. And I think this is something that happens in a lot of adaptations of older properties. I feel like it's heavily influenced by what is popular in the, like, pop –
JESS: Zeitgeist of the world.
ANDREW: Zeitgeist, yeah.
JESS: The Darth Vader problem. Like, because we like Darth Vader, suddenly Darth Vader becomes important.
ANDREW: Yeah. Yeah. We like Darth Vader. Darth Vader is now literally Jesus in Star Wars, you know? It's like, okay, that wasn't really how it came off originally, but yes. And then now you have this and it's like, okay, you go on the store and you talk about Christmas Story, what is everyone gonna bring up? That frickin leg lamp, right?
JESS: Either that or “you'll shoot your eye out.” Those are the two things.
ANDREW: Yeah, the leg lamp in the movie is like a recurring gag, but it's not a major plot point, I wouldn't say -
JESS: It is a major award, though.
ANDREW: It's a major award, of course. And I'm not going to take that away from the old man. But like, it's like a short gag that you see in quick bursts. And that's about it. You know, and it's funny, and then it breaks. And he's sad about it. And it's funny. And then the gag’s over. That's it. It's done, you know? In this musical, there is like a 10-minute long dance sequence with like, 100 leg lamps. And they do a kickline -
JESS: A leg lamp kickline.
ANDREW: It's like, in the movie, it was like, he gets a box. He opens it. And he's like, “Wow”. At first, he looks upset. And then he's like, “I'm gonna show it off because it's a major award.” And then that's it. But it's not a 12-minute dance sequence with a major song. And I'm surprised it's not the - Actually Is it the Act One finale? It's very close to the actual finale, actually.
JESS: I mean, it kind of has to be done.
ANDREW: Well, it doesn't, though. Just because is popular in the zeitgeist doesn't mean that it needs to be the focus. I think it would have been funnier if it was just like it was the movie, just a little gag, you know?
JESS: I mean, I agree. But let's think about this as every stage adaptation of a famous movie. Every single big plot point becomes a song. That's even really true for Beetlejuice where you can't not have the Day-o scene and if we have the Day-o scene we need to make it bigger than it was in the movie.
JESS: Same applies. I get why they did it. That doesn't mean I like it. I do like the song, which is like, (sings) “I got a major awaaard.” I like the way it sounds. And I don't mind the song being in. I hate the staging. I hate how big it is, is more the problem.
ANDREW: It’s too much. It's like - Okay, because you have the sequence where he first gets it and he's singing, “I have a major award.” And then he goes outside and he's talking to people and showing it at the window - “I have a major award.” And then it gets to a fantastical sequence where he's doing a dance number, and he does a kickline and he has a major award. And then, after the kickline, it keeps going. It's still going.
JESS: You see, Andrew, you see, when we started this podcast, you loved the cheese. You loved how big –
ANDREW: I do love the cheese.
JESS: I remember one time we were talking Wicked, you were just so excited that there was gonna be a dance and when it got to the dance, you were so excited, you didn't want to end. Here, you –
ANDREW: I do like the dance. I do like the dance. But like, the kickline is funny. Maybe skip the part where he goes outside and he talks to people and is like, “Okay, here's the window.”
JESS: We have an ensemble, they need to do something,
ANDREW: Have him put it in the window, and then it gets fantastical and he does the kickline because the kickline is funny. That's a good gag. And then end the song. Do those two things and then end. Like, you don't need to have it go for so fucking long. They bring out a miniature version of the leg lamp. Like, how much of this do we need? It's like they're just trying to sell merchandise.
JESS: Okay so, Act One ends with basically the fudge scene, right?
JESS: That's such a weird - It's a weird way to end the first act, for one.
ANDREW: Well, how do you end the first act though? Because like, the movie is not at all set up to be in a two-act structure?
JESS: Not at all, but most movies aren't. In all fairness.
ANDREW: To be honest, I think this would have been better as a one-act and set it up as more vignettes like they do in the movie. But they probably don't want to do that because people are gonna pay for a two-and-a-half-hour long show and they want to see that, so -
JESS: It's - Why don't they end on a big musical number? Why didn't they end on the Major Award and then start with the fudge scene? I guess because they wanted the Christmas tree.
ANDREW: Especially, I think it might have been because they wanted to end it with something having to do with Ralphie and not something that the Father is the only one doing?
JESS: Maybe. And they also restructured the entire plotline. Like, as you pointed out, they cut out the entire Little Orphan Annie sequence.
ANDREW: Yeah, which I actually liked that sequence. I think the whole Ovaltine gag is funny.
JESS: Yeah, that's the loss of childhood innocence if we ever heard it.
ANDREW: Which, by the way, that is a bit of an anti-capitalist message by the way.
JESS: You're right. When you're right, you're right. Um, then we also have the sticky situation where Flick gets his – is it Schwartz or Flick that gets his tongue stuck onto the pole?
ANDREW: I honestly don't know, either from the show or from the movie.
JESS: Flick. It’s Flick. That happens relatively early in the movie, and then they move it to the start of the second act for the musical?
ANDREW: It's like the Act Two opener.
JESS: What was that?
ANDREW: Is it the Act Two opener? Or am I –
JESS: Yeah, it is. Sticky Situation is the Act Two opener that then fades into the You'll Shoot Your Eye Out song and dance number. Because he goes in after Flick gets his tongue ripped off. Like, they literally flip him off that pole. Like, it's an event. And then he goes inside, and then they go, “Oh, I got my theme back.” And “Oh, you'll shoot your eye out.” So, they move that to be much later into the show because they want it to be Act Two. It's not as noticeable or as jarring as Frozen where they like add a bunch of shit to the front of frozen to try to make Let It Go be the Act One closer, but it is noticeable and does kind of ruin the very, very tight structure that the movie has.
ANDREW: Yeah, and I think it's maybe another thing where they wanted to make people sit through to Act Two to see that scene. Because I know the tongue getting stuck to the pole scene is another kind of famous –
JESS: I guess. Maybe there isn't any big things in the last third or second half of this story.
ANDREW: Really the last - the ending of the movie, the only things that really happen are the bunny suit.
JESS: Yeah, that's iconic, too.
ANDREW: Do they have him put the bunny suit on?
JESS: Yeah, they do. Very briefly.
ANDREW: They, they do. Yeah. But that's a big thing. And then him getting the gun of course and shooting his eye out.
JESS: Yeah. And then the racism.
ANDREW: Yeah, which honestly, I don't think that's a major thing. I don't even remember that part.
JESS: In the - I will say one thing about the Fox Live production. They go to get the Chinese dinner, and they bring out the guys to sing and they're like an actual acapella group and they’re like (sings) “Deck the halls with - ” And it sounds beautiful. And the dad’s like, “That wasn't what I expected.” They were like, “What did you expect?” And he's like, “I don't know.” That's actually the one time I got a good laugh out of -
ANDREW: That actually is a funny gag because it's like, “Wait, do you want him to say like ‘I expected the racist thing?’”
JESS: I expected y'all to be fucking Chinamen. I expected Breakfast at Tiffany's here.
ANDREW: (sings) Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra. That's so racist, by the way.
JESS: That is so racist. Like, I feel like that entire scene, in and of itself, like oh, they go to Chinese restaurant because, you know, everything's closed on Christmas. That's a funny idea. Then he added the racism and it's like... Is there anything you think the musical did better than the movie? Anything at all?
ANDREW: Uh, honestly, I don't think so.
JESS: I got one, I got one. One-and-a-half. I liked the characterization of the mom, they really flesh her out in a way. Well, that movie doesn't really need it. And you get a lot from her performance. I do like her two songs in this musical quite a bit. Like What a Mother Does, where she's like, “I got all these things” and you get like a peek into how they kind of are suffering financially, but she's gonna try to keep up traditions and all that, and how she doesn't mind having to never get to sit down to dinner and all that. I really like that song. And I think it's good. Maya Rudolph just destroys that song because she can't sing it in the live production. Like, she's actively terrible. But the song itself is really good. I really, really like the moment where she pulls Ralphie away from the fight that is not as effective, but I like the moment where she's like, “Hey, life moves on and you had a bad day. And you know what? It's over now.” I think both those moments are really good and are better than what they have in the movie. That's it. I also like the kid’s tap dancing, because that's an actual kid that's tap dancing. And he's really talented. Yeah, one-and-a-half things.
ANDREW: I mean, I guess, if you're gonna include dancing stuff, obviously, all of the dancing is better in this because there is no dancing at all in the movie. But -
JESS: It could have been made better if they had dancing, I'll tell you that.
ANDREW: Maybe. Depends where the dancing was.
JESS: But then there's things like - I don't really want to dive into the father's head about why he's so good at crosswords.
ANDREW: I don't - Yeah, it's like, I don't really care.
JESS: This is Ralphie’s story. And I feel like a one-act where you kind of only get like the You'll Shoot Your Eye Out song from the teacher and the Sticky Situation where you focus on them and then you have those little emotional moments between him and his mom - I don't think we should have any singing when Ralphie isn't on stage, if that makes sense.
ANDREW: You think that it's getting too much into other people and it kind of ruins the tone – Like, it's his story?
ANDREW: Especially when he's literally the narrator and is onstage as the narrator for most of the show.
JESS: I like that the narrator interacts a bit. That's kind of a funny gag.
JESS: Like, little things like that, that make this come alive, I think really work.
ANDREW: I don't think that this is a bad show. I just cannot imagine myself in a place where I would pay to see it.
JESS: But would you watch the Fox Live production starring Matthew Broderick and Maya Rudolph?
ANDREW: You had me at Matthew Broderick... In that I would not watch it. Because Matthew Broderick is in it.
JESS: Is there anything that you would watch despite Matthew Broderick?
ANDREW: Probably The Producers?
JESS: I mean, that suits him pretty well. You wouldn't go to see Tower Heist because you love Eddie Murphy so much you're willing to stomach Matthew Broderick.
ANDREW: I can't say I love Eddie Murphy that much.
(Andrew and Jess sing Party All the Time)
JESS: Oh, my gosh. On that note, do you want to go into a mid-show?
ANDREW: Yeah, sure.
JESS: Hey, these ads like to party all the time. Let's take a listen.
JESS: What do you think of the opening number, It All Comes Down To Christmas?
ANDREW: I mean, it's fine
(It All Comes Down To Christmas plays)
JESS: This song has been in my head all goddamn week.
ANDREW: Really? This one is stuck in your head?
ANDREW: I've been kind of humming A Major Award a little bit.
JESS: But this one is the one I keep coming to because I keep having to restart it for different reasons and I'm like, “Da-da-da-da-da-da cus it all comes down to Christmas, da-da-da-da-da-da cus it all comes down to Christmas.” I like it a lot. And I'm like, it gives you that Christmassy feeling. And it's one of those rare opening numbers where it has the “I want” song stuck in the middle of it. Like, it's sandwiched between the “I want” song which goes to the Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun, which is about as blatant as an I want song as you can have and it works.
ANDREW: I mean, this story has a very, very obvious “I want”, because that literally is the only thing he wants.
JESS: Yeah, he doesn't even want his dad to, like, love him.
ANDREW: No, which is great. It's so great that the character doesn't want anything else besides a toy.
JESS: He is a very surface-level character, Ralphie Parker.
ANDREW: Ralphie Parker probably is my favorite Christmas hero.
JESS: Fuck you, Ebenezer Scrooge. Eat my ass, Quest of the Magi or whatever the fuck. I don't know who starts that story.
ANDREW: Screw you, Heat Miser and Cold Miser and Santa Claus and Jesus.
JESS: And Rudolph and Frosty -
ANDREW: Ralphie Parker. Ralphie Parker is my boy.
JESS: You know, Jesus could have done a lot more against the Romans if he had a BB gun.
ANDREW: I can just imagine it. Jesus with a Red Ryder carbine action BB gun. There's no way he's getting cruxied.
JESS: He is gonna take down the Romans Empire all by himself by shooting their eye out.
ANDREW: (sings) It all comes down to Christmas.
JESS: Wait, what is Christmas?
ANDREW: Well, that's when he's born.
JESS: Well, do you think they called it that when he was alive? They waited till he was dead to call it Christmas.
ANDREW: I like x-mas.
JESS: I like xxx-mas. Let's talk about The Genius on Cleveland Street, which I think is a very pointless number. But I don't know, maybe Andrew has different opinions.
ANDREW: No, this is a very - You're absolutely right.
(The Genius on Cleveland Street plays)
ANDREW: It doesn't really correspond to anything in the movie either. It's just kind of like –
JESS: It does, with his crossword that he has that morning. But the joke in this song is very obvious things he isn't able to pick up on, where I thought the joke in the movie was, “What is the Lone Ranger's nephew's calf named?” And that's such an obscure one and the mom’s like, “Oh, it's Roger, whatever,” he's like, “How do you know that?” She's like, “Everyone knows that.” And I'm in the audience, like, “What? Maybe I'm the dumb one.” But he's given, “Who went with Daddy Warbucks? Little Orphan Annie.” And he's struggling with that.
ANDREW: I think the other joke is that they do music theater gags because they do reference Annie. They do Leaping Lizards, I think.
JESS: Yeah. But the thing is, that was also from the movie. Like, Little Orphan Annie was kind of a thing in that.
ANDREW: That's true. They're referencing the thing that they're referencing.
JESS: Right. And yeah, it's also a musical but also, I don't think Ralphie’s dad – which, also, another thing. I don't like the fact they have names in this. I hate the fact that they gave them names.
ANDREW: Yeah, it's just the Old Man.
JESS: Yeah, his name's Frank in this.
ANDREW: Yeah, he shouldn't have a name.
ANDREW: It's like, if you made a Peanuts musical and there's actual adults on stage – like, that's not okay.
JESS: Ummmmmm, whoops.
ANDREW: Well, I guess you ruined that one for me.
JESS: That's a fun musical. That's a better musical than this.
ANDREW: But you can't have adults on stage. Literally, they have to be played by trumpet trombones in the orchestra.
JESS: What if they’re adults playing the children? Is that the same?
ANDREW: No, that's not the same. Adults can play the children.
JESS: That was where I was like –
ANDREW: That's just bypassing child labor laws.
JESS: Yes. Annie should learn a thing or two from that. But The Genius on Cleveland Street – I don’t like it. It doesn’t feel right for this story.
ANDREW: Okay, of all the plots to cut, you cut out the Ovaltine gag and then you add in a song like this? Come on, this doesn't even need a song. This could be, this could be a two-line gag about a newspaper crossword and then just move on, you know? This doesn’t need a song.
JESS: But that's how he gets the major award.
ANDREW: Yeah, but we already have the major award song. He sings it.
JESS: I don't mind that song, in and of itself. Let's talk a little bit about Ralphie to the Rescue, because I want to talk about at least one fantasy sequence and this is the big thematic one.
(Ralphie to the Rescue plays)
ANDREW: I wish this one was more Western. I feel like it could have been better, but I do like the song. It's a bit catchy and the staging is still fun.
JESS: I think the staging is great. I think that kid actors in this show is head and shoulders above a lot of kid actors we've seen. Like, specifically the range of Ralphie when he's like, “Ralphie to the rescue oh-woa-woa”. Ah, it sounds great.
ANDREW: Yeah, no, he does a good job. I think the only thing I would have liked is a little bit more Western flair but they may not have had the instruments to do it, I’m not sure.
JESS: Right. And I don't think this is really a show designed for a theme like that.
ANDREW: No, and it's fine. Because really, in the movie, these fantasy sequences are pretty short as well.
JESS: Yeah, but everything in musicals gets elongated to make it two hours.
ANDREW: Yep. Which is not always a good thing.
JESS: No, it's very rarely a good thing, except for things like Beetlejuice which are an anomaly that proves how –
ANDREW: Well, that's because Beetlejuice doesn't follow the movie. Beetlejuice does its own thing.
JESS: I wish more musicals would do that, but they don't.
JESS: Let's talk about What a Mother Does because I really like this song.
(What a Mother Does plays)
ANDREW: All right. Well, I don't know if I have a lot to say on this one, why don't you –
JESS: I just - What do you think the character of the mother was in the movie? Like, was there much for character there?
ANDREW: I mean, the most characterization we get from her is that she is upset when Ralphie swears and ask for guns, and she puts soap in his mouth. So, to be honest, I don’t like her.
JESS: You didn’t even hop on your soapbox about that yet.
ANDREW: I'll hop on my soapbox right now if you want me to.
JESS: Go for it.
ANDREW: Okay, my least favorite part of the entire movie, and probably even including the very short racist part, I think the worst part is when they put soap in the mouth and it’s played up as a gag.
ANDREW: That's fucking child abuse, and it's not really funny. And they play it as if it's like, “Oh”, I mean, they're saying that it's bad because obviously he doesn't want to have soap in his mouth, but they're not condemning it in any way and they're kind of making a bit of a reference that this is justified because he swore, you know, like -
JESS: Maybe don't swear, Andrew.
ANDREW: One, kids should be allowed to swear.
JESS: I agree, I agree there.
ANDREW: If adults are allowed to swear at children, which they are, children should be allowed to swear it adults. So many parents that –
JESS: I think that you should be allowed to swear at school too.
ANDREW: It's words, it's literally words, most of them don't even have that bad of a meaning. Obviously there are slurs, which are different than swears.
ANDREW: That’s a little bit of a different thing, but swearing and using slurs are not the same thing.
JESS: I knew kids in my school that would use slurs but were like, “(gasp) How dare you say the D word?”
ANDREW: Yeah, it's like, “Okay, but you were over here saying - ”
JESS: But they’ll openly say the F slur for gay people.
ANDREW: Honestly, that was super common when I went to school.
JESS: Yes, me too.
ANDREW: But swearing was still like, “Ooh taboo.”
JESS: “Ooh, how dare you say the F word?”
ANDREW: Yeah, but for one: that's not that bad. And two: putting soap in your kid's mouth is child abuse, and I don't think it's even safe. I feel like you could –
JESS: My parents did it to me.
ANDREW: That's not a good thing, man.
JESS: I turned out fine.
ANDREW: Tell your parents, and I'll tell them right now, you shouldn’t have done that.
JESS: You know my dad's listening right now.
ANDREW: You shouldn't have done that. That's not good. Apologize to your kid. You shouldn't put soap in his mouth. Would you want him to put soap in your mouth? Is there any situation where you could think like, “Man, it would be justified if he put soap in my mouth.” If you can think of a situation where it's justified that your kid puts soap in your mouth, then maybe it's okay to put soap in their mouth. But, I don’t know.
JESS: Can you think of a situation where it's justified for my son having to change my shitty diapers?
ANDREW: Yeah, I can, actually. Adults wear diapers all the time. They're called adult diapers. And sometimes they need care and children often give that care to their parents.
JESS: Well, that's what a mother does, Andrew. And I think this song is really good. Let's talk about You'll Shoot Your Eye Out.
(You'll Shoot Your Eye Out plays)
ANDREW: You'll Shoot Your Eye Out.
JESS: That's where the teacher sings at him.
ANDREW: Yeah, as a witch.
JESS: Yeah, I think it's great.
ANDREW: I think it's fine. I think I like the Ralphie to the Rescue fantasy sequence better.
JESS: I like this one because I like the tap. I specifically like the kid that tap dances.
ANDREW: Yeah, I mean, the dancing is fun. I thought you weren't a dance guy, though, come on.
JESS: I'm not, but I love kids dancing, apparently, because this kid’s just tapping away. It’s like boop-be-doop-ba-doopa-dey and I’m like, “Eyyy, get it, kid”
ANDREW: There's not that much value in the song, though, but it's fine.
JESS: I like the lady that plays the teacher. Her specific dancing is pretty good too.
ANDREW: Yeah, and I think they did a good job with all the costumes and stuff for the fantasy sequences. They look like they do in the movie.
JESS: Yeah, and the transformation - because they have to do really, really quick transitions between them - It's really good. I also really like the child chorus screaming the taunt – like, “you’ll shoot your eye out.” It just sounds nice to my ears, as dumb as that sounds. Every time it's like clippety-clippety-clippety-cloppity-clump “You’ll shoot your eye out.” I'm like, “Oh, I'm enjoying myself.”
ANDREW: Yeah, it's – no, it's fine. It's a fun song.
JESS: Yeah, um, all right. The last song I really want to talk about is, A Christmas Story. They turned the title into a song. The final number.
ANDREW: The closer.
(A Christmas Story plays)
JESS: I'm not gonna lie, like, I was watching this kind of passively like, “Oh that's fun, oh that's fun.” I got a little choked up during the song and I'm like, “What the fuck is wrong with me?”
ANDREW: I don't know if I agree with that. I don't know if I got that emotional about this song.
JESS: I don't know why. I think I just like Christmas and I know you're not really a Christmas guy.
ANDREW: I'm not a huge fan of Christmas. It's a bit over-commercialized. One thing I actually do want to mention with this show, is I feel like because it's a musical, it almost kind of makes A Christmas Story more whimsical and Christmassy than it actually is in the movie, which makes me like it a little less.
JESS: And I understand that and I feel that way throughout, but still - when they've got these melodies coming back and the old man Ralphie singing with the young version of himself, I'm like “Fuck, we're all gonna get old and die. Childhood doesn't last forever. We're just flesh.” Like, I had an existential crisis, thank you A Christmas Story musical.
ANDREW: You know, and that's fine, that's good, that's good. I think it closes out the show nicely. And I don't think I want to watch this again.
JESS: I don't think I'll actively search it out, maybe we'll do a commentary on the Fox Live production next Christmas if we're really really strapped for ideas.
ANDREW: There’s gotta be more Christmas stuff than that.
JESS: Matthew Broderick, Andrew.
ANDREW: Oh, Matthew Broderick - Why, why?
JESS: I mean, Matthew Broderick will say yes to anything.
ANDREW: Isn't that a line from something that he did? I can't even remember. Wasn’t that in The Producers?
JESS: There is a fun Matthew Broderick Christmas story I want to bring up now that I'm thinking about it. So, I was re-listening to How Did This Get Made? and they were telling stories of behind the scenes of the film Deck the Halls. Do you remember this?
ANDREW: I don’t.
JESS: Where Matthew Broderick was up against Danny DeVito and who could decorate their house more or something.
ANDREW: Oh, yeah. Honestly, that is - I remember Christmas with the Kranks, I don't remember that.
JESS: But, like, one person who was a script supervisor was walking around, looking at the cast and Matthew Broderick is just, like, face-in-his-hands, he's like, “Well, this is rock bottom. End of career. Doesn't get lower than this.” Danny DeVito, as soon as he's done with every shot, he's like, “I'm on a plane outta here”, and Kristin Chenoweth is in a room crying because her and Aaron Sorkin just got divorced.
ANDREW: Very nice story, Jess, thank you so much.
JESS: Um, but yeah. So, Andrew, what is your overall thoughts on A Christmas Story: The Musical and your cheese rating?
ANDREW: Well, I like it okay enough. But I really feel like it does a bit of a disservice to the movie, by making everything longer which is something a lot of adaptations do, but also changing the tone to be a bit more Christmas-friendly, whereas the movie honestly isn't as much. So, I'm gonna have to give it a not-my-fave-dog.
JESS: Is that a cheese?
ANDREW: No, my cheese rating? What is a good Christmas cheese? My goodness.
JESS: Well, maybe you want a middling Christmas cheese since you're not really a big fan of this musical.
ANDREW: Yeah, I guess I don't want a great Christmas cheese. What do people have for Christmas?
JESS: Cheese Cake?
ANDREW: Oh, I don't like cheese- Actually, I guess, yeah, there you go. Cheesecake.
ANDREW: Yeah, we're gonna give it cheesecake. It's fine. It's honestly fine, it's not bad.
JESS: It is Pasek and Paul’s best score technically. That isn't much of a compliment. I just hate everything else they've done so much more.
ANDREW: Yeah, I mean, I guess compared to the rest of their work, I like this better than Dogfight or Dear Evan Hansen.
JESS: Or La La Land?
ANDREW: Well, they did the lyrics to that, not the score, right?
ANDREW: So, I don't know, I'm gonna say, if you like Christmas Story a lot, a lot, maybe check it out, but honestly –
JESS: You know, I think, honestly, here's my suggestion: if you've never seen A Christmas Story the movie, you might like this musical, to be honest.
ANDREW: Yeah, I think, if you have seen the movie, you've already seen a better version of the story, so it's kind of hard to recommend it.
JESS: It's hard to unlearn what you've learned from that movie.
ANDREW: Okay, you know what - Here's what I'd say - if it's coming to your town, and it's live on stage, maybe. And you don't have to buy a ticket.
JESS: If you have a free ticket, yeah. Or if your local high school is putting it on, I'd see it. Community theater’s doing it, I’d go see it.
ANDREW: Yeah. But if it's on Fox and Matthew Broderick’s in it, and it's on television, and you could just flip over to a different channel and watch the movie, probably just watch the movie.
JESS: I mean, that's a fair point. But I agree with most of what Andrew said. I say, give it a shot. Maybe you’ll like the cast recording, but if you see it live by a community theater, I think you'd get a lot of enjoyment out of it, not gonna lie. I don't think it's bad.
ANDREW: No, I think the score is fine and I think it tells the story in a passable way. It's just, you know, with this movie being so ubiquitous it's like, why bother?
JESS: You can say the lines alongside with them is the thing.
JESS: But my cheese rating is: There's this place called Mars Castle - Mars Cheese Castle in Wisconsin. And they have a leg lamp with the lamp heart shade made of cheese.
ANDREW: I was gonna do something like that for mine but I was like, I don't know if it deserves that. But, you know, I guess a leg lamp is a major award. So, you must have really liked this show.
JESS: I guess so. But you know who definitely didn't like this show?
ANDREW: I actually, I don't know who didn't like this show.
JESS: Our wonderful patrons. Thank you guys for listening.
JESS: We’ll see you next time on our very Christmasy Christmas Eve episode. I think our Christmas Eve episode is next, Andrew.
ANDREW: Oh my god. Christmas Eve, we have an episode coming out?
JESS: Yeah, we do. And you guys, it might be something more familiar than you'd expect. “Bum-bum-bum-bum, December 24th 9PM Eastern Standard Time, from here we shoot without a script, see if anything comes of it, instead of our old shit.” We'll see you next time on Musicals with Cheese. Merry Christmas, everybody.
ANDREW: Ho, ho, ho, bah humbug,
JESS: (sings) You'll shoot your eye out.
Wikipedia page for A Christmas Story: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Christmas_Story:_The_Musical
Playbill for A Christmas Story: https://www.playbill.com/production/a-christmas-story-the-musical-lunt-fontanne-theatre-vault-0000013957