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This Week on Stage: 'Elf' and 'A Christmas Story' musicals on Broadway

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Stage A Christmas Story
Carol Rosegg

The best way to spread holiday cheer, Will Ferrell instructed us in the 2003 movie Elf, is singing loud for all to hear. And what better place to sing than on Broadway? Now the stage musical version of Elf is back on Broadway after a one-year hiatus. And it’s joined by a new stage version of the 1983 yuletide movie fave A Christmas Story (pictured above) — that naturally features a leg-lamp kickline and a tap-dancing fantasy number called “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out.” Both shows opened this week for limited runs, and here are excerpts of our reviews (as well as those of other new productions):

A Christmas Story: The Musical EW’s Tanner Stransky writes that “the stage adaptation plays like a heart-tugging, best-of version of the movie, with a saccharine score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and a book by Joseph Robinette that desperately panders for laughs.” Still, he writes, “the musical’s pleasures are far and wide.” EW grade: B+

Elf The musical version of the 2003 Will Ferrell movie returns to Broadway two years after its debut with a new opening number and new leads, including Jordan Gelber as a “softer, more childlike” Buddy the elf. “Elf won’t change your life,” Tanner Stransky writes, “but it will brighten your holiday season a little bit.”  EW grade: B+

Checkers Despite “solid” performances by Anthony LaPaglia and Kathryn Erbe as Richard and Pat Nixon circa 1952, Adam Markovitz concludes that Douglas McGrath’s historical drama “never quite hits its stride, moving from scene to scene with purpose but no momentum.” EW grade: B–

Forever Dusty Kirsten Holly Smith “nicely” captures the tumultuous life of pop singer Dusty Springfield in this Off Broadway bio-drama. “If the result is more good than great,” writes Clark Collis, “well, it’s worth remembering that, as someone once sang, just being good isn’t always easy.” EW grade: B

The Piano Lesson Ruben Santiago-Hudson directs a “harmonious” and “truly romantic” revival of August Wilson’s 1930s-set drama about a brother and sister squabbling over an elaborately carved piano that has been in their family for generations, writes Melissa Rose Bernardo. “Be it an a cappella spiritual or a piano-fueled boogie-woogie, music is essentially a supporting character in this play—serving at various moments as entertainment, elegy, and even exorcism.” EW grade: A–

The Twenty-Seventh Man Nathan Englander’s play, adapted from his fact-based short story about Jewish intellectuals who were executed by the Soviet Union in 1952, is “a truly powerful examination of the slow suffocation of words, culture, and, ultimately, truth that occurs under despotic rule,” writes Keith Staskiewicz. EW grade: A–

The Velveteen Rabbit Margery Williams’ classic children’s book gets an inventive adaptation as a one-hour stage show that, as Jessica Shaw concludes, is “as beautifully engaging for adults as for children.” EW grade: B+

Follow Thom on Twitter: @ThomGeier

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EW’s Stage Hub