Small-town, childish daydreams of fame and recognition, a dare too good to pass up, a kid brother who won’t eat his mashed potatoes… There’s a Ralphie in all of us, right? Why else would we continue to tune in to the 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story on television year after year? There’s certainly something to be said about the nostalgia of this 1940s family in the throes of the holidays. So why not also turn that into a musical the whole family can enjoy?
So perhaps we haven’t all had the pleasure of having a school-yard bully as memorable as Scut Farcus in our lives, but something serious happened to pop culture at the release of Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story—and family holidays for that matter, leg lamps and all. This 1983 film—now considered to be a movie beyond genre—was pretty forgettable at the box office. But that stint in the public eye turned into a slow burn on the popularity spectrum, and voila—a holiday movie about realistic holiday things, with as many quotable lines and relatable moments as there are calories in a cup of Ovaltine.
We’re all familiar with these family tropes. Frank Parker, “the Old Man” who is Ralphie’s father is stern, unapproachable yet loving and fulfiller of Ralphie’s ultimate Christmas wish—you know the one. Melinda Dillon—a quiet Close Encounters of the Third Kind star who began her career as a coat-check girl at Second City (she would perform there in no time) is Ralphie’s sweet but protective mother. And then there’s Ralphie and his brother Randy—getting into the most inane of troubles (and just trying to make it to school, Scut!).
If you’ve never read the short stories of writer Jean Shepherd on which this movie is based, you’ve just found your holiday reading material. This movie is an amalgam of stories included in In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash and more, the best bits pulled from them in the creation of this 1983 masterpiece. It’s Shepherd’s narration you hear at the very beginning, and his turns of phrase are straight from his pen. This is the man who created the “triple-dog-dare.” He would say his writings are exactly the opposite of nostalgia, but that’s for you to decide.
And now this surprising classic and Jean Shephard’s biting wit have been turned into a musical. A Broadway musical at that, which garnered three Tony nominations, just losing out Best Musical to Kinky Boots in 2013. But these songwriters have come a long way in the intervening years, winning an Academy Award for La La Land and finally clinching that Best Musical Tony for Dear Evan Hansen. This holiday romp won’t disappoint, either.
So if you can’t visit Ralphie’s house for the holidays (seriously, you can, it’s in Cleveland. AND there’s a museum.), you can gather ’round the family and trade in the The Lone Ranger on your box radio (televisions screen, more like), for the big stage.
Feeling nostalgic for the holidays? See this 1983 classic live on stage, with that same Ralphie humor December 29 – 31 with A Christmas Story: The Musical!