A Christmas Story, the 1983 film, is marking its anniversary of 30 years and has something to sing about. The favorite tale about a dysfunctional family, featuring the constant dreamer 9 year old Ralphie, has been made into a musical. A Christmas Story, The Musical will make its run at Madison Square Gardens December 11-29. Following earlier performances at the Wang Theatre is Boston and The Bushnell Theatre in Hartford, the stage show is complete with all the props that gave the film a cult-like following.
Original star Peter Billingsley, who played Ralphie in the movie is one of over a dozen producers of the show. Billingsley gained attention for his role in A Christmas Story, after a run of numerous television commercials including Messy Marvin of Hershey’s chocolate syrup fame. He went on to play small parts on TV shows such as Punky Brewster, Who’s the Boss and The Wonder Years. Billingsley moved on from acting into the behind the scenes role of director and producer, with credits such as Iron Man, The Break-Up and Four Christmases. Somehow the tale of his most famous role came back full circle with working on the musical of A Christmas Story.
Based on writings from Jean Shephard’s In God We Trust; All Others Pay Cash, Ralphie is the little boy who only wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Putting up with the antics of his family and friends, Ralphie witnesses the trauma as his friend gets his tongue frozen to a pole, his father coos over a weird leg lamp and the neighbors dogs destroy their Christmas turkey. In the end, after many warnings from his mother, teacher and others, “You’ll shoot your eye out!,” Ralphie receives the treasured gift on Christmas day. The scenes from the movie are memorable and hilarious, just as the new musical reflects the crazy humor.
Followers of the movies have been dubbed “Ralphies” and the iconic props have gone on to enjoy a life of their own. The story based in small town Indiana, was actually filmed in Cleveland, Ohio with the house used presently as a museum honoring the movie. The Santa scene was shot at downtown department store Higbees, which has since gone out of business and is the home of the Horseshoe Cleveland Casino. It is no surprise to see the slot machines adorned with small leg lamps, paying tribute to the famous movie.
The stage show, A Christmas Story, The Musical is full of songs by Benji Pasek and Justin Paul, including such titles as Red Ryder, You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out, Before the Old Man Comes Home and Upon Santa’s Lap. The play was written by Joseph Robinette and features narration by Dan Lauria of The Wonder Years fame.
Only given a run for their money in 1990 with the appearance of a new kid on the block, Macauley Culkin in Home Alone, A Christmas Story remains a family tradition. The dysfunctional Parker family represents a somewhat normal mid-western family trying to get along despite the goofy, unforeseen events. That is what makes it so endearing, as it is a story people can relate to.
The wish and hope of a young boy and the realized dream on Christmas morning makes for a touching tale. A Christmas Story, The Musical, expands the fun with song and dance and a new approach to the beloved saga. This is a remake that seems to be working the house and cheers from the audience will soon be heard in Madison Square Gardens this holiday season.
By: Roanne H. FitzGibbon