BAR HARBOR — For a whole generation of people who grew up with the 1983 movie version of “A Christmas Story,” nothing says Christmas like a leg lamp, a pink bunny suit, and getting your tongue stuck to a metal pole on a cold day.
Acadia Community Theater (ACT) brings all the fun of the original movie version to the stage in their current production, while making the show their own. The show moves to the Criterion in Bar Harbor this weekend, with performances set for Friday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 8 at 11 a.m.
With great acting from an intergenerational cast and creative costumes, props, and music from the crew, everything comes together to make a truly enjoyable performance.
Hayden Braun plays a great young Ralphie, a boy of few words. Every one of his words is carefully chosen to convince the adults in his life of his need for a BB gun for Christmas. As Ralphie, Braun delivers his lines with the perfect serious urgency of a 9-year-old boy who knows what he wants.
Filling the audience in on what young Ralphie is thinking is Adult Ralph, played by Tucker Atwood. Atwood is on stage for most of the show. He’s not part of the action, but he moves the action along, often drawing laughter from the audience with his observations. As the narrator, he moves easily back and forth between reality and fantasy, peppering the story with numerous “dream sequences” that come straight from young Ralphie’s imagination.
Ralphie’s family is played by a solid ensemble of actors who play off one another well: Molly Dillon and Bodie Tapley as sister and brother Ronnie and Randy, and Jamie Creed and Matt Cornish as Mother and Old Man.
Dillon gives a strong performance as Ralphie’s sister who accompanies him on all adventures and even sticks up for him to a bully, when his friends do not. Tapley is wonderfully whiny as the little brother, who often spends scenes out of sight, hiding behind the couch or in a large delivery box, or wrapped tight in a puffy snowsuit.
Creed has a lovely smile and brings a calmness to the role of Mother, which perfectly offsets Cornish’s bumbling, humorous portrayal of Ralphie’s foul-mouthed but big-hearted dad. (Note to parents: all the swear words are in gibberish, to make the show family-friendly.)
Supporting cast members are perfect for their roles. Noah Keeley is properly intimidating as Scut Farkas, the bully. CassieLyn Willis makes a sweet Esther Jane, the classmate who is so fond of Ralphie that she wears his gift a large spider pin proudly, even though she doesn’t like spiders. Harlan Mahoney and Adam Losquadro are wonderful as Ralphie’s best friends, Schwartz and the hapless Flick, who sticks his tongue to a cold metal pole with predictable results.
Angel Hochman is great as a stern Miss Shields keeping order in her classroom, and Matt Hochman makes the most of all three of his cameos as tree lot salesman, neighbor, and delivery man of the large box which contains a leg lamp, a bright item that adds to the drama in Ralphie’s home.
Mark Carignan and Cecelia Blackett give a funny portrayal of a grumpy department store Santa and his amused elf. All the children in the cast give great performances of 1940s school children.
The costumes by Jaylene Roths and Geneva Langley are expertly done. Not only do the clothes look very authentic to the 1940s, but the “dream sequence” costumes are beautifully elaborate. Particularly fun are the sequined cowgirl costumes for “Black Bart” and her crew of Desperados played comically by Zoe Boland, Madeleine Langley, and Bailey Fitzpatrick.
Though not a musical, the play has a wonderful soundtrack that includes a Nutcracker waltz, Handel’s Hallelujah chorus, and nice scratchy and crackly sound effects reminiscent of a record player and bad radio reception. This attention to detail extends also to the props, lighting, and special effects that bring every unique scene to life.
Director Doug Van Gorder does a great job connecting all the pieces to pull off a very entertaining show. Though this is his first time as a director, he has done just about everything else from acting to producing to managing the stage, and his experience shows.
Not only does the audience have a good time at this show, as evidenced by the laughter, the cast and crew are clearly have fun bringing the story to life as well. Coming together to entertain each other and share some laughs is really what community theater is all about.