Friday, December 29, 2017

A Christmas Story: The Musical

A Christmas Story: The Musical

San Francisco Playhouse
450 Post Street

Until January 13, 2018

Reviewed by Christine Okon

Tucked among the holiday lights and memories of your personal Christmas past is, perhaps, the 1983 film A Christmas Story, Jean Shepherd’s warm and quirky reminiscence of his own childhood in circa 1940’s small town America. Good news: You can still experience a little bit of Christmas with San Francisco Playhouse’s production of A Christmas Story: The Musical, playing until January 13, 2018.

The Cast
Director Susi Damilano knows how to bring forth the wide range of talent and personalities of the large cast of children and adults who partake in the real and fantasy life of Ralphie Parker, the boy who dreams and schemes to get the special gift of a “Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle” despite warnings from everyone that he’ll “shoot his eye out.” The kids can really sing, dance and act, with special standout Jonah Broscow who brings a nerdy likeability to Ralphie, a complex mix of doubt and determination as he dreams of what he can do with the gun.

Ralphie and his dream gift  (Jonah Broscow) 
Ryan Drummond plays Ralphie’s dad, “The Old Man,” with the defensive insecurity of Don Knotts and the loopy agility of Donald O’Connor; The Old Man is a volatile and constantly irked ordinary guy who emits a creative cacophony of swearing.

Mother (Abbie Haug) at odds with the Old Man's prize lamp

Christopher Reber is the amiable and likeable narrator Jean Shepherd, lending a bemused but loving tone to the retelling of memories, not all of which are joyful.

Christopher Reber as Jean Shepherd
As the schoolteacher Miss Shields, Katrina Lauren McGraw supercharges the room with her presence and voice full of soul and passion, especially in the “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out” number that’s set in a fantasy 1930s speakeasy.

Miss Shields (Katrina Lauren McGraw) and class 
And a really fun and energetic piece is “Ralphie to the Rescue,” where our pulse rises with Ralphie’s as he dreams of saving the day in many ways with his Red Ryder Gun.

Ralphie (Jonah Broscow) "rescues" Miss Shields (l) and Mother (r)
Ralphie’s dad also dreams of glory and is rewarded when his crossword entry wins him the special prize: a garish lamp that’s a sexy woman mannequin’s leg capped by a lampshade, much to to chagrin of Ralphie’s mom (a strained but patient Abbie Haug) who is the quiet engine of order in the midst of chaos.

The Old Man’s fantasy builds into song and dance as he imagines himself “The Genius of Cleveland Street,” joined by others swinging and waltzing with their leg lamps across the stage.

The Old Man (Ryan Drummond) exults in the Lamp Dance
While being diligent to his dream, Ralphie must live his ordinary kid’s life, surviving the daily school bully's attack; witnessing the triple-dog-dare that schoolmate Flick (Mario Gianni Herrera) accepts only to have his tongue stuck to the frozen flagpole; being big brother to the goofy Randy (Kavan Bhatia) who gleefully and noisily demonstrates that he’s “mommy’s little piggy” as he wolfs down dinner from a dish on the floor; and throwing away his shot to tell Santa what he really wants for Christmas.

The Triple Dog Dare
But “It All Comes Down to Christmas” after all, with the warmth of community and sense of home, and the bond of family that thrives beyond the expected trappings of the holiday and the surprises as diverse as a Chinese menu.

The Parkers Enjoy a Christmas Meal

Go ahead, treat yourself to a little more Christmas and start the new year with A Christmas Story: The Musical.


A Christmas Story: The Musical

San Francisco Playhouse
Until January 13, 2018

Music and Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Book by Joseph Robinette


Christopher Reber JEAN SHEPHERD
Jonah Broscow RALPHIE
Jack Barrett GROVER DILL
Kavan Bhatia RANDY
Ken Brill SANTA
Chloe Dalzell ESTER JANE
Ryan Drummond THE OLD MAN
Kathryn Han NANCY'S MOM
Abby Haug MOTHER
Gwen Herndon NANCY
Mario Gianni Herrera FLICK
Matilda Holtz SCUT FARKUS
Sophia LaPaglia ENSEMBLE
Charlotte Ying Levy NANCY
Katrina Lauren McGraw MISS SHIELDS

Jake Miller RANDY
Ozlo Ransom Mitchell FLICK/SCHWARTZ
David Rukin SCHWARTZ
Panita Serizawa MARY BETH
Sammy Vernick SCUT FARKUS


Director  - Susi Damilano
Music Director - David Dobrusky
Choreographer - Kimberly Richards
Scenic and Properties Designer - Jacquelyn Scott
Costume Designer - Abra Berman
Sound Designer - Theodor J.H. Hulsker
Lighting Designer - Thomas J. Munn
Stage Manager - Saraj Selig

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Come and Meet Those Dancing Feet

42nd Street

Bay Area Musicals

Alcazar Theatre
650 Geary St., San Francisco

Ends December 10, 2017

Reviewed by Christine Okon

There’s something uplifting about the sound of dancing feet. Why, it’s almost better than therapy.

Shuffling Off to Buffalo
Depression era audiences knew this when they escaped into Busby Berkeley movies like Gold Diggers of 1935, Babes on Broadway, and of course, 42nd Street. Now you, too, can get a kick, with Bay Area Musicals' current production of 42nd Street, playing at the Alcazar theater until December 10, 2017.

Peggy Sawyer (Samantha Rose) and Gang

Director Daren A.C. Carollo and choreographer Matthew McCoy (who is also the driving force behind BAM) have gifted us with their version of the Broadway show that starts with a big dance number and and continues nonstop with songs like “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me,” “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “We’re in the Money,” and more.

DC Scarpelli, Samantha Rose, and Cast

The plot is familiar: a young woman from a small town dreams of making it big on the New York stage, and, by golly, she does! Samantha Rose is a wonderful Peggy Sawyer, a demure presence with a dynamite voice and powerhouse legs that tap their way to stardom when a twist of fate creates the big chance. But she doesn’t do it alone: she’s part of a group of “kids,” fellow hoof and song aspirants who are betting it all with every step and number. There’s a lot of energy in their camaraderie that fills the room.

Billy Lawlor (Nikita Burshteyn)

Everyone in the cast is a fine performer, with special thrills given by Nikita Burshteyn as the wannabe beau Billy Lawlor, DC Scarpelli as the producer-with-a-heart Julian Marsh, and Marisa Cozart as the capable but fun stage manager Maggie Jones. All of the large cast deserves big applause.

We're in the Money!

This production is the result of a lot of work and it is amazing to see the young performers keep such lively rhythm and precision. The live music is fun but there were times the band could have used more practice.

42nd Street is a perfect show to see as a respite from holiday and other worldly stress. When you leave the theater, you may just want to tap dance your way down Geary to Union Square to get a little holiday spirit.

42nd Street

Music by Harry Warren; Lyrics by Al Dubin; Book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble

Direction by Daren A.C. Carollo
Choreography by Matthew McCoy
Musical Direction by Jon Gallo



Samantha Rose, Peggy Sawyer
Nikita Burshteyn, Billy Lawlor
Laurie Strawn, Dorothy Brock
DC Scarpelli, Julian Marsh
Marisa Cozart, Maggie Jones
John Brown, Bert Berry
Venis Goodman, Abner Dillon
Zach Padlo, Andy Lee/ M Ens
Peter Budinger, Pat Denning
Kevin Singer, Mac/Thug/Doctor
John Charles Quimpo, Oscar/M Ens
Janet Wiggins, Annie
Hilary McQuaide, Lorraine
Catrina Manahan, Phyllis
Danielle Cheiken, Ensemble/Dance Captain
BriAnne Martin, Ensemble
Lindsey Meyer, Ensemble
Alyson Chilton, Ensemble
Leslie Waggoner, Ensemble
RJ San Jose, Ensemble
Carlos Guerrero, Ensemble


Daren A.C. Carollo, Director
Matthew McCoy, Choreographer
Jon Gallo, Musical Director
Daren A.C. Carollo/Matthew McCoy, Scenic Design
Brooke Jennings, Costume Design
Courtney Johnson, Lighting Design
Wayne Roadie, Prop Design
Anton Hedman, Sound Design
Barry  Despenza, Sound Board Op
Jackie Dennis, Wig Design
Ryan Weinstock, Stage Manager
Wayne Roadie, Assnt. Stage Manager
Richard Gutierrez, Wardrobe Master
Stewart Lyle, Technical Director
Clay David, Scenic Artist


Sonja Lindsay, Trumpet
Jeremy Carrillo, Trombone
Larry De La Cruz, Woodwinds
Will Berg, Woodwinds
Keith Leung, Woodwinds
Kyle Wong, Bass
Randy Hood, Drums
Jon Gallo, Keyboard/Conductor