Jean Shepherd’s ‘Christmas Story’ sings and dances at Paper Mill

“A Christmas Story” at Paper Mill Playhouse through Jan. 3 is everything fans of the 1983 movie of the same title want it to be with, of course, nearly 20 song-and-dance numbers about growing up in 1940s Indiana.

Key moments from the film are recreated in this holiday musical by Joseph Robinette (book), Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul (music and lyrics), including Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant, tongue on the flag pole, flat tire and the “F” word, the Major Award delivery and destruction, two live Bumpus hounds, the pink bunny suit and Ralph nearly shooting his eye out with the coveted Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle.

The original Broadway version in 2012 lasted only a few months. It’s a holiday-themed show, after all, but has joined the list of November-December regional productions (family oriented money makers is the hope) that includes “A Christmas Carol,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Holiday Inn” and “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” (winner for absurdly long show title).

As a longtime Jean Shepherd fan who tuned into WOR radio to listen to his short stories and anecdotes as a teen, I hope the show sends newcomers to read his books, including “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash” and “Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters” (no, I don’t get a kickback!) source material for the musical. “Shep” was a great raconteur.

But as an adapted work from the movie, the songs don’t really take us places, expand the characters, or tell us stuff we don’t already know. But “Ralphie to the Rescue” is fun and a 1930s speakeasy tap dancing fantasy number “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out” is superb.

Miss Shields (Danette Holden) returns Ralph’s essay about what he wants for Christmas and the class is transported to the C+ Lounge were Miss Shields,  and  wearing a slinky red sparkly gown, with  students dressed as guys and dolls singing and tapping their way through the song. (I’m a sucker for tap dancing mobsters.)

Colton Maurer, who played Ralphie on opening night (he splits the role with Judah Immanuel) is perfectly fine in the role as are Chris Hoch as The  Old Man, Elena Shaddow as Mother, Hudson Loverro as Randy and Ted Koch as the voice of Jean Shepherd narrating.

There will be a serious adjustment if you are a serial watched of the film version, nut that’s not to say you won’t like the stage version if you don’t mind songs that don’t advance the plot and I gotta think a lot of recreational theatergoers really care much about that. It’s your call.


Presented by the Paper Mill Playhouse, 22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, through Jan. 3. Directed by Brandon Ivie and choreographed by Mara Newbery Greer. Music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Book by Joseph Robinette. With Colton Maurer, Judah Immanuel, Hudson Loverro, Elena Shaddow, Ted Koch, Danette Holden, and Chris Hoch.

Performances: 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, with 1:30 p.m. matinees Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Tickets: $29 to $120. Call 973-376-4343 or visit