Soon after the opening bars of music rang out on the set of FOX's latest live production, Twitter users had plenty of thoughts. And, um, apparently a hefty portion of them were unaware that A Christmas Story Live was supposed to be a musical. Though the live FOX production is based on the Broadway version of the beloved 1983 film, A Christmas Story, some people seemed to be caught off guard when Ralphie started belting out some serious notes. The confusion seems odd, given that past live network productions of classic films — Peter Pan Live, Grease Live and The Sound of Music Live, to name a few — have all been musicals.
But, to the credit of the puzzled viewers, the trailers for this television event haven't heavily featured the musical aspect of A Christmas Story Live or really even sampled or previewed any of the songs (which makes sense, because it would all be happening for the first time live). The Broadway show, though it was well-received, also isn't exactly a worldwide phenomenon or household name a la Hamilton. It seems that many were simply hoping to watch a cut-and-dry live reenactment of the 1983 fan favorite, and when it became clear that the entire film was going to feature musical numbers, some people were distinctly not into it.
However, there were plenty leaping to the defense of A Christmas Story Live, with other viewers taking to Twitter to express their support.
The Broadway show was met with critical success, and in 2013 it was nominated for three Tony Awards, including for best musical, best book of a musical, and best original score, according to Playbill. Despite the success, it had a relatively short run on Broadway, closing in late December the same year it opened, according to the same Playbill article (possibly due to the fact that it's a Christmas show). This could contribute to the limited knowledge much of the country seems to have about it, even though productions continue to tour the country.
Despite the incredulous reactions some skeptics seem to have had about the musical TV adaptation, the original Ralphie — actor Peter Billingsley — told Playbill in an interview earlier this month that the film was always destined to be a musical. "The idea of a musical was very, very inspiring to me because it’s really an extension of the story. I don’t think you want to remake the story. They did a pretty good job the first go-round," he told the publication. "But Ralphie was very much a dreamer in the film. So many of those fantasy sequences lend themselves so well to the big Broadway song-and-dance pieces. And that’s really what it is. When the dad wins the leg lamp, it turns into a leg-lamp kickline."
He also sang the praises (no pun intended) of composing duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who are responsible for the music of both the Broadway show and the TV adaptation. "Their energy and their point of view has helped give this piece an energy and a youthful point of view," he said in the same interview. "But their songs are also sophisticated, and they’re fun, and they’re interesting, and they’re satisfying. You don’t want to out-think yourself. They flat-out earned it. They’re going to have a really long and prosperous career, so the truth is we feel lucky to have them."
Those taken aback by the musical nature of A Christmas Story Live, rather than grumbling about the changes their favorite holiday film has undergone, should embrace the music and give the experience a chance. After all, it's got the blessing of the original Ralphie, and that's about as big of an endorsement as it can get.