Draper Historic Theatre triple-dog-dares audiences not to enjoy ‘A Christmas Story: The Musical’Dec 01, 2023 09:33AM ● By Katherine Weinstein
Ethan Marchant is one of the actors who plays Ralphie in the Draper Historic Theatre production of “A Christmas Story: The Musical.” (Photo courtesy of Mindy Eckroth/Draper Historic Theatre)
Draper Historic Theatre is breaking with tradition this season and will present a new stage musical version of the classic 1983 film, "A Christmas Story." The nostalgic 1940s-set comedy about a young boy named Ralphie who wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas will run Dec. 7 through 23.
Co-director Laura Lewis explained that while the theater's annual production of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is well-loved, many in the community felt it was time to change things up. "There are a lot of really fun Christmas shows that don't get done because of 'Christmas Carol,'" she said.
"A Christmas Story: The Musical," ran on Broadway during the 2013 holiday season. The songwriting duo Pasek and Paul, who are best known for the musical "Dear Evan Hansen" and "The Greatest Showman" film, composed the music and lyrics. The book, which sticks closely to the plot of the movie, was written by Joseph Robinette.
Lewis is co-directing the musical with her brother, Todd Taylor. "Most everyone knows the story," he said. "It's a big responsibility to bring it to life and do it justice."
Audience members who are fans of the movie will recognize all the key plot points. The musical includes everything from the Old Man’s leg lamp and Ralphie’s pink bunny pajamas to the Bumpus dogs stealing the turkey and the kid who gets his tongue stuck on a frosty flagpole.
At the same time, folks who are not familiar with the story will find plenty to enjoy as well. Ryan Hoskins, who plays Ralphie’s “Old Man,” said, “The music really adds to the story. The big production numbers are so much fun. They involve everybody.”
While the movie is narrated by a grown-up Ralphie via voiceover, the narrator is on-stage in the musical. Paul Shaw, who has taken on the part explained, "My role is more interactive with the audience as well as reactive to what's going on on-stage." Shaw has never seen the movie and enjoys putting a fresh spin on the role. "It's making the story a journey for the audience," he said.
Performing the musical has been an enjoyable journey for the cast members as well. All of the lead roles in the production are double-cast. Thirteen-year-old Ethan Marchant is one of the actors who plays Ralphie. “He’s such a fun character to play,” Marchant said. “He can be rambunctious, but he can also be loving and softhearted and good to his brother.”
In preparing for the role, Marchant drew upon his own Christmas memories of wanting something from Santa Claus as badly as Ralphie wants his BB gun. “I wanted to be able to fly when I was six,” he explained. Unfortunately, Santa was unable to deliver that superpower. “My parents gave me a trampoline. I was really frustrated when I got the trampoline!” he said.
Ryan Hoskins is having a lot of fun with the Old Man’s dialogue. “What I like most are the made-up swears he comes up with when he cusses out the Bumpus dogs,” he said. “I like the range of the character. Most of the time he’s gruff but then he gets his lamp and becomes a polished song and dance guy.”
In the role of Ralphie’s mother, Lisa Shortridge drew upon her life experience for the role. “She’s a devoted wife and mother,” Shortridge explained. “That’s what brings her joy but also a lot of stress. Being a mom myself there are some things I can relate to. It’s been interesting to explore that.”
The cast includes many children in the roles of Ralphie’s friends and classmates. “This is the first show I’ve done with an ensemble of kids,” Shortridge said. “They bring such an energy to the show. They are just very talented.”
Todd Taylor spoke of the joy he has found in seeing the story brought to life on stage. “The best part is seeing all the kids coming together and being friends in real life and on stage,” he said. “This cast is incredible.”
“I’ve grown a new love for this show by being a part of it,” Laura Lewis said. “This is so fun! I would recommend it to anybody.”
Draper Historic Theatre presents “A Christmas Story: The Musical” Dec. 7, 8, 9, 11, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23 at 7:00 p.m. with 2:00 matinee performances on Dec. 9, 16 and 23. Draper Historic Theatre is located at 12366 S. 900 East in Draper. For tickets and more information, visit draperhistorictheatre.org. λ