The Cary Players Are Reprising Their Hilarious Version of “A Christmas Story” Nov. 30-Dec. 3

The cast for "A Christmas Story" includes (clockwise from left) Joseph Gaitens, Bill LaFrankie, Matt Schedler, Amber Ivie, and Austin Harger
The cast for “A Christmas Story” includes (clockwise from left) Joseph Gaitens, Bill LaFrankie, Matt Schedler, Amber Ivie, and Austin Harger

The Cary Players will reprise their community-theater presentation of A Christmas Story, which delighted Triangle theatergoers from 2004 to 2007, on Nov. 30-Dec. 3 at the Cary Arts Center. Written in 2000, dramatist Philip Grecian’s stage adaptation of the classic 1983 motion picture based on Jean Shepherd’s stories is hilarious as it dramatizes the commotion the erupts when Ralphie Parker (played in this production by Joseph Gaitens) asks Santa Claus to bring him a genuine Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. (Grecian also incorporates into his script other material from other Shepherd reminiscences about growing up in the Midwest during the 1940s.)

When Ralphie makes his shocking request, his mother (played by Amber Ivie) shrieks, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” Other grownups — and even old Saint Nick — tell Ralphie much the same thing.

Looking back on the furor cased by his boyhood yen for a genuine Red Ryder BB gun, the adult Ralph Parker (Matt Schedler) wryly comments, “It was the classic mother B.B. gun block: ‘You’ll shoot your eye out.’ That deadly phrase uttered many times before by hundreds of mothers, was not surmountable by any means known to kiddom.”

According to the Cary Players:

“With the same anticipation young Ralphie Parker feels during his quest for the ‘Red Rider 200-shot, carbine-action range model air rifle,’ Cary Players is eagerly preparing to present the delightful stage version of A Christmas Story in the Cary Arts Center. Opening night is Nov. 30th for the one- weekend-run of this holiday classic.

“Director and Cary Players founder Dan Martschenko notes, ‘Audiences will enjoy familiar scenes including the family’s temperamental exploding furnace, the frozen flagpole, and the famous high-heeled leg lamp.’

“Popular lines from the beloved 1983 motion picture such as ‘You’ll shoot your eye out!’ and ‘I triple-dog dare you!’ will resonate with audiences.

“Martschenko first pitched the idea of A Christmas Story to Cary Players in 2003. ‘We wanted something that wasn’t being done by other theater companies around the holidays,’ he noted.

“With the first read-through, the young company knew they had a crowd-pleaser on their hands. Even with limited theatrical amenities in the Old Cary Elementary Media Center, Cary Players was able to delight nearly 4,000 theatergoers from 2004 to 2007 with A Christmas Story.

“When Cary Elementary closed for renovations in 2008, Cary Players could no longer produce the show. Now that the beautiful new Cary Arts Center has reopened, and with Cary Players as its resident theater company, it’s time to bring back Jean Shepherd’s wacky and wryly realistic portrayal of an American family’s Christmas joys.

“Matt Schedler returns to the stage in his role as ‘grown-up’ Adult Ralph, the rich-voiced storyteller of this Yuletide-tale. Veteran actor Bill LaFrankie captures the gruff exterior but soft heart of the Old Man, while Amber Ivie plays the warm and sometimes wacky Mother.

“As the little brother Randy, Austin Harger shows he’s not afraid to eat his oatmeal like a little piggy, and in the starring role of young Ralphie Parker, Joseph Gaitens reminds us of all the hopes, dreams and occasional anxiety the holiday season can offer.”

In addition to director Dan Martschenko, the Cary Players creative team for A Christmas Story includes assistant directors Debra Zumbach Grannan and Jon Karnofsky, production coordinator Sharon Galluzzo, set designer Bob Grannan, lighting designer Michael Lefler, costumer LeGrande Smith, hair and make-up designer Kat Thompson, properties manager Carole Kelly, and stage manager Keith Bugner.

Playwright Philip Grecian recalls, “The play is clearly based on the movie … but there were some things in [other related Jean Shepherd] stories that didn’t get into the movie that I liked … so they made it into the play…. The structure is similar to the movie, though I draw heavily on the four [other] stories as well … and the sequence is not identical to the movie. I have been careful to be as faithful to [Jean Shepherd] as possible.”

In reviewing Grecian’s play, Jim Clavin wrote, “In [the film version of] A Christmas Story, the story focused on Ralphie’s home and school with other scenes taking place in a department store, back alleys, the school parking lot, the town square, and even a Chinese restaurant. Philip created a main set consisting of Ralphie’s home with a second-floor bedroom, and some clever side sets such as the classroom, backyard, and Santa’s Mountain. During the play, your attention is led by lighting effects to focus on one portion of the stage, while another portion is slightly re-arranged for a different scene.”

The Cary Players present A CHRISTMAS STORY at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30, 3 and 8 p.m. Dec. 1, 3 p.m. Dec. 2, and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Cary Arts Center, 101 Dry Ave., Cary, North Carolina 27511.

TICKETS: $18 ($16 students and seniors 55+), except $15 per person for groups of 20 or more.

BOX OFFICE: 800-514-3849 or






NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh ( will audio describe the 3 p.m. Dec. 1st performance.


A Christmas Story (the film): (official website for the DVD) and (Wikipedia).

Jean Shepherd: (Wikipedia).

A Christmas Story (the play): (official web page).

Philip Grecian: (Dramatic Publishing).

Dan Martschenko: (Facebook).


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.

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By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).