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Five-City Tour of “A Christmas Story: The Musical” Hopes to Score a Bull’s Eye in Raleigh, NC

Broadway Series South, the North Carolina Theatre, and Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy will present A Christmas Story: The Musical, the national tour of a new holiday show directed by John Rando and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, on Nov. 29-Dec. 4 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh, NC.

The new musical features music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Edges) and a book by Joseph Robinette (who collaborated with E.B. White on Charlotte’s Web), based on In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash (1966), stories from his Indiana boyhood by writer, broadcaster, and raconteur Jean Parker Shepherd (1921-99), as well as the 1983 Warner Bros. motion picture A Christmas Story, with screenplay by Shepherd, Leigh Brown, and director Bob Clark.

A Christmas Story is a new musical being developed,” notes director 2002 Tony Award®-winning director John Rando (Urinetown, The Musical). He adds, “The movie lends itself beautifully to the musical-theater genre, because so much of the movie is seen through the imagination of Ralphie Parker [Clarke Hallum]…. He imagines himself a cowboy, and he wants a BB gun….”

But not just any BB gun — what Ralphie wants for Christmas is a genuine “Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and a thing which tells time [i.e., a sundial],” even though his parents, teachers, and the other grownups repeatedly warn Ralphie: “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

Besides Clarke Hallum as Ralphie, the cast for A Christmas Story: The Musical includes John Bolton as Ralphie’s father The Old Man, Rachel Bay Jones as Ralphie’s Mother, Matthew Lewis as Ralphie’s whiny little brother Randy, Nicholas Daniel Gonzalez and Jake Bennett Siegfried as Ralphie’s best friends Flick and Schwartz, Charlie Plummer as school bully Scut Farkus, Drea Gordon as Ralphie’s would-be girlfriend Esther Jane, Karen Mason as their fourth-grade teacher Miss Shields, and Adam Pelty as a department-store Santa Claus. Gene Weygandt will do double duty author Jean Shepherd, who narrates the show, and comic-strip, radio, and television cowboy hero Red Ryder.

Other cast members include (in alphabetical order): John Francis Babbo as Grover Dill, Jonathan Burke as a Delivery Man and a Fireman, Andrew Cristi as an Elf and a Waiter, Sally Elting as Little Nancy, Nick Gaswirth as a Foley Artist, Casey Gorab as Mary Beth, Alex Puette as a Fantasy Villain and a Delivery Man, Johnny Rabe as an Insistent Boy, Emily Rudolph as a Waitress, Marguerite Willbanks as Flick’s mother, George Andrew Wolff as a Christmas Tree Salesman, and Kirsten Wyatt as a Nurse and an Elf. Members of the ensemble include Leslie Henstock and Lyn Philistine; and swings include dance captain Sean McKnight, assistant dance captain Mara Newbery, Carl Kimbrough, and Kayla Rea.

“The movie is a great jumping-off point for a musical,” claims director John Rando. He explains, “What appeals to me most about the story is that it’s a story about the American family[, circa 1930]. It’s a family musical. It’s funny, it’s touching, and it’s moving.”

Rando reveals, “I wanted to do a holiday musical that’s about real people. I am a Jean Shepherd fan, and I’m a fan of the movie as well.”

Moreover, Rando says, “I have a 10-year-old boy, and I wanted to do a musical that he and his friends could come to see, a musical that’s good for children as well as adults.”

He adds, “[A Christmas Story: The Musical] takes a very loving approach to [Ralphie’s] story. What makes it new and unique is the music, of course. If you are a fan of the movie, and familiar with the music [on its soundtrack], I think you will enjoy the songs [of this new musical] and the way that they amplify Ralphie’s journey. I think that’s what makes [A Christmas Story: The Musical] fresh and new ….

Raleigh is the midway point on the 2011 mini-tour of A Christmas Story: The Musical, produced by Gerald A. Goehring, Roy Miller, Michael F. Mitri, Pat Addiss, Mariano Tolentino, Louise H. Beard, Michael Filerman, Scott Hart, Timothy Laczynski, Bartner/Jenkins Entertainment, Angela Milonas, Bradford W. Smith, and Peter Billingsley, who starred as Ralphie Parker in the 1983 movie. The tour began Nov. 8-13 in Hershey, PA, and Nov. 15-27 in Detroit, MI. After Raleigh, the tour will visit Tampa, FL (Dec. 6-11) and Chicago, IL (Dec. 14–30).

“Hopefully, next year or the year after, the show will make it to New York City,” says John Rando, “depending on the audience response and the momentum we’re building this year on the road, on this mini-tour.”

In addition to show’s producers, director John Rando, and choreographer Warren Carlyle, the creative team for A Christmas Story: The Musical includes associate choreographer James Gray, musical director Ian Eisendrath, music coordinator Talitha Fehr, technical supervisor Fred Gallo, scenic designer Walt Spangler, lighting designer Howell Binkley, costume designer Elizabeth Hope Clancy, hair and wig designer Tom Watson, sound designer Ken Travis, and production stage manager Tripp Phillips. The show also features orchestrations by Larry Blank and dance arrangements by Glen Kelly.

A Christmas Story director John Rando claims that the biggest challenges of transforming A Christmas Story into a musical is “getting the story right” and telling Ralphie’s journey well.

“Ralphie’s story is beautifully told in the film,” says Rando, “and we want to rise to the challenge of telling it beautifully in this musical.”

He adds that the creators of A Christmas Story: The Musical couldn’t set every incident of the perennially popular movie to music, so they picked and chose what is vital to the story.

Director John Rando says, “The set is a realistic but yet colorful version of Ralphie’s Indiana home. There’s a winter landscape — a wonderful snowscape –in which the entire musical takes place.”

Rando says the musical’s lighting enhances “the look and feel of the show” and adds “a colorful wintery and Midwestern feel to the musical.”

The costumes for A Christmas Story: The Musical are true to the time and place, says Rando. They are true to what an Indiana would wear during the days the Great Depression.

“All of the design choices are inspired by the film,” Rando explains. “In some places, they echo the film…. We have really tried to give a warm, Christmastime feel to the entire show [and make it look] like a Norman Rockwell painting from the 1930s.”

He adds, “[A Christmas Story: The Musical is first and foremost] the story of an American family. Even in hard times — in times of struggle — the family unit is the thing that will pull you through….

“I think this musical will really speak to families in the Triangle — it’s the perfect holiday pick-me-up,” claims director John Rando, who previously directed Three Tall Women (1996) and Skylight (1997) for PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill and A Thousand Clowns (2001), starring Tom Selleck, for Theater Previews at Duke in Durham.

SECOND OPINION: Nov. 26th New York City Playbill.com preview by Sheryl Flatow: http://www.playbill.com/news/article/156910-Watch-Out-for-A-Christmas-Story-the-Musical-Youll-Shoot-Your-Eye-Out; Nov. 25th Washington, DC NPR preview by Jeff Lunden: http://www.npr.org/2011/11/25/142673831/a-christmas-story-musical-sing-out-ralphie?ft=1&f=101672137; Nov. 25th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by David Menconi: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/11/25/1667007/his-eye-is-fine-thanks.html; and Nov. 18th Raleigh, NC WRAL-TV interview by David Crabtree with Peter Billingsley: http://www.wral.com/entertainment/video/10369177/.

Broadway Series South, North Carolina Theatre, and Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy present A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 29-Dec. 2 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 and 4 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.

TICKETS: $16-$75.

BOX OFFICE:

Progress Energy Center Box Office: 919/831-6060 (information only).

Ticketmaster: 800/745-3000, 919/834-4000, or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/1604015.

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919/996-8707, group@raleighconvention.com, or http://www.progressenergycenter.com/broadway-series-south/group-sales.

SHOW: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/event/achristmasstory-324.

VIDEO PREVIEWS: http://achristmasstorythemusical.com/vidIntro.php.

STUDY GUIDE: http://achristmasstorythemusical.com/education/ACS_Study_Guide.pdf.

PRESENTERS:

Broadway Series South: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/broadway-series-south.

North Carolina Theatre: http://www.nctheatre.com/.

Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy: http://www.hotsummernightsatthekennedy.org/.

VENUE: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/venue/memorial-auditorium.

DIRECTIONS: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/directions.

PARKING: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/parking.

NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 2 p.m. Dec. 3rd performance.

OTHER LINKS:

A Christmas Story: The Musical: http://achristmasstorythemusical.com/ (official website).

Director John Rando: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Rando (Wikipedia) and http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=75515 (Internet Broadway Database).

The Film: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Christmas_Story_(1983_film) (Wikipedia) and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085334/ (Internet Movie Database).

Jean Shepherd: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Shepherd (Wikipedia) and http://www.flicklives.com/ (fan site).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

To start your FREE subscription to this newsletter, e-mail RobertM748@aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TTR in the Subject: line.

To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.

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