Tag Archives: “A Christmas Story”

Tony Nominations For 3 Westporters

The Tony Award nominations were announced moments ago — and a trio of former Staples Players standouts work on shows that could win.

Justin Paul

Justin Paul

Justin Paul (Staples Class of 2003) and his writing partner, Benj Pasek, were nominated for Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre, for their work on “A Christmas Story, The Musical.” Their competition is “Hands on a Hardbody, “Kinky Boots” and “Matilda the Musical.”

Gina Rattan ’04 is associate director of “Rogers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella.” It’s up for Best Revival of a Musical, going against “Annie,” “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” and “Pippin.”

Michael Altbaum (Staples ’02) is assistant company manager for “Matilda the Musical.” It vies for “Best Musical,” with “Bring It On: The Musical,” “A Christmas Story, The Musical” and “Kinky Boots.”

Gina Rattan

Gina Rattan

The winners will be announced on Sunday, June 9 at Radio City Music Hall (and televised live on CBS).

Justin, Gina and Michael should have a great time — and will greet each other warmly.

All 3 were together for a year at Staples. In addition, Justin and Gina had wonderful theater careers just a year apart at the University of Michigan.

PS: This just in! Kate Bosch (Staples ’05) is a set painter for the Huntington Theatre Company of Boston — which will receive the Regional Theatre Tony at the June 9 awards ceremony.

Justin Paul’s “Christmas Story” Lights Up Broadway

In high school, people said that Justin Paul should be on Broadway.

That’s common praise for talented teenagers.

Few get there. The obstacles are great: Cutthroat competition. Bad timing. The need to make an actual living long before the bright lights shine.

Justin Paul

Justin Paul is one of the few. And it took him less than a decade, from the day he left the Staples stage in 2003.

A Christmas Story, the Musical” — with music and lyrics by Justin and Benj Pasek, his collaborator ever since freshman year at the University of Michigan — opened last night at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater.

Based on the movie “A Christmas Story,” and the book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash,” it earned a strong review from the New York Times.

Christopher Isherwood wrote:

Mr. Pasek and Mr. Paul have provided a likable, perky score that duly translates all of the major episodes in the story into appropriate musical numbers: Ralphie and his brother, Randy (Zac Ballard), enduring the humiliations of the local bully; the licking-the-cold-flagpole scandal; the visit to a cranky department store Santa Claus. The finest song is probably “Just Like That,” a lament for the quick passing of the childhood years performed with tender care by Ms. Dilly.

But the sequences that make the children in the audience perk up and stop fidgeting are naturally the big dance numbers led by the smaller fry in the cast. “A Christmas Story” features a sizable group of young performers that makes the small band of orphans in “Annie” look positively skimpy. They are wonderfully showcased in a couple of fantasy numbers that are the highlights of each act, and are choreographed with invention by Warren Carlyle.

In “Ralphie to the Rescue!” the stage becomes a Wild West town where Ralphie, with his trusty Red Ryder in hand, saves various damsels in distress in the guise of a sharpshooting cowboy. And the tap extravaganza in which Mr. Spring so impressively acquits himself comes in the course of a loopy number that finds the kids in the cast portraying dapper gents and their dolls cavorting in a speakeasy in the 1930s. (It’s very “Bugsy Malone,” for those who remember that peculiar movie.)

Why Ralphie’s imagination should be fired by such imagery is not made clear, but I was too dazzled by that stage full of children making a joyful, metallic noise to care.

You’re welcome to your Red Ryder carbine action BB gun, Ralphie. What I want for Christmas is a pair of tap shoes.

“A Christmas Story, the Musical” runs through December 30.

Paul And Pasek: “The Youngest Old Souls On Broadway”

With Dogfight — their off-Broadway musical debut — getting largely positive reviews*, Staples grad Justin Paul and his songwriting partner Benj Pasek are already looking ahead.

And with A Christmas Story, The Musical! headed for Broadway in 3 months, they’re generating plenty of buzz themselves.

Yesterday, the New York Observer took note. In a long story headlined “The Youngest Old Souls on Broadway: Dogfight Songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul Hit the Big Time,” Harry Huan introduced the still-just-27 duo as Perhaps The Next Big Thing.

Benj Pasek, Peter Duchan and Justin Paul (at Justin’s wedding).

Among the highlights:

Whether Pasek & Paul become this millennium’s Lerner & Loewe remains to be seen, but they are on the right track and coming at a respectable speed out of the University of Michigan’s theater department, old school ties flapping in the wind.

“We developed an appreciation for all those classic musicals and began to really analyze them and try to figure out what made them so great,” Mr. Paul explained. “Not that we write in their style necessarily, but we understand their craft.”

Two-time Tony winning director Joe Montello said, “It has been so exciting to collaborate with three people (Staples grad Peter Duchan wrote the book) who are at the very beginning of their careers. Their enthusiasm, their optimism—infectious!”

Godspell‘s Lindsay Mendez added, “It’s unbelievable to be able to debut a score of this caliber. Every song is so unique and special and fits the moment so perfectly. It’s a dream to get to sing their stuff.”

As for A Christmas Story, actor John Bolton praises, “I genuinely believe this score that they’ve written is not just a serviceable score for a contemporary holiday show, but I believe it to be a classic American score.”

Dogfight ends its run at Second Stage Theater August 19. A Christmas Story opens November 19 at the Lunt-Fontanne.

There’s still time to get tickets for both.

*(Except for some idiot from the New York Post.)

(To read the entire New York Observer piece, click here.)

Justin Paul’s “Christmas Story”

A Christmas Story” — the tale of a Depression-era Christmas, and a boy yearning for a BB gun — is a pop culture classic.

It’s on TV every year. There are “Christmas Story” ties and underwear.

Now it’s on a 5-city tour. The ultimate goal: Broadway.

Director John Rando (“Urinetown”) and choreographer Warren Carlyle (“Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway”) are behind the show.

Justin Paul

So is co-composer Justin Paul, the 2003 Staples graduate still revered for his theatrical and musical accomplishments there.

Justin worked on “A Christmas Story” with his longtime creative partner Benj Pasek (they met as freshmen at the University of Michigan).

The score, according to today’s New York Times, is “1940s but through the lens of Benj and Justin 2011.”

The Times story added:

Several songs interpret famous scenes from the film, including “A Major Award,” which features a leg-lamp kick line, and “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out,” which sets the movie’s most famous warning to music. As with any adaptation, the creators faced the problem of how to stay loyal to the film without regurgitating it.

The piece concludes:

While Mr. Pasek and Mr. Paul expressed enthusiasm about the possibility of the show’s being their Broadway debut, they are busy with other projects, including musical adaptations of Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach” and the 1991 indie film “Dogfight,” which is having a reading in New York next week.

“Thankfully, the decision is not in the hands of two neurotic 26-year-olds,” Mr. Paul said. “It’s up to people with a lot more power and money than we have.”