“A Christmas Story” taps into childhood memories and expectations
A young boy from an unspecified Midwestern town named Ralphie Parker only wants one thing for Christmas — a Red Ryder BB gun — but everyone keeps telling him the same thing: “You’ll shoot your eye out!”
Such are the tribulations of childhood that provide background for the modern holiday classic, “A Christmas Story,” which comes to the Haddonfield Plays & Players stage starting Thursday, Dec. 6.
The stage play is adapted by Philip Grecian from the Bob Clark-directed 1983 motion picture as well as Jean Shepherd’s semi-fictional anecdotes in his 1966 book “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash.” It follows Ralphie, a 9-year-old child in 1940s America, and his quest to receive that elusive prize. As in the film, the older Ralph (voiced by Dan Safeer) narrates his memories of a “simpler time,” centering around family, friends and the holiday season.
“I love how Shepherd writes of Ralphie’s trials and tribulations so genuinely. Ralphie has an admirable goal with real stakes, according to his future self. Even after years of growing and aging, Ralph looks back on his childhood self with all the same seriousness and tension that he had as a young boy,” said director Emily McHale. “It reminds me that we as adults relate to kids more than we realize, and I like remembering that.”
“It’s been a lot of fun bringing this classic to life. Audiences will find that the play has a lot more ‘heart’ than even the movie, as sentimental as it was,” said Pat DeFusco, who plays Ralphie’s father, aka, “The Old Man.” “An interesting challenge has been playing Ralphie’s parents through the twin lenses of his grown-up perspective and his childhood memories.”
McHale cited the deep diving into Ralphie’s daydreams as a fun aspect to tackle in directing the play. With a cast that’s so committed to being silly and playful in a piece that mixes those elements within a dramatic context, she feels those scenes really bring out the best in everyone.
Despite the location and time period in which the action takes place, “A Christmas Story” is one that is relatable to all audiences. Almost everyone remembers a time when they were children and possessed a single-minded pursuit of a toy or game or object that would make their holiday season one to last a lifetime. The show also taps into that feeling of relief when you didn’t get caught by a teacher, parent, or other neighborhood adult after a big mistake — or, in the case of an iconic scene from the movie — getting caught triple-dog daring a classmate to do something risky.
All involved in the production have faith the public, no matter their familiarity with the author, the movie, the play or musical, will enjoy themselves.
“If you want to see a show which pays homage to the classic story/movie, you’ll like this play. If you’ve never seen the movie and are unfamiliar with its iconic context, you’ll like our play. If you know the movie but are interested in seeing some fresh, new surprises, you’ll like our play. Basically, if you’re coming to have fun and enjoy a night in the theater you’ll be in the right place,” gushed McHale.
“A Christmas Story will have its preview show on Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. with the official opening a day later, Friday, Dec. 7, at 8 p.m. For more information on show dates and times, visit: http://www.haddonfieldplayers.com/shows/2018/05_AChristmasStory.php.
Tickets are now on sale for this event at www.haddonfieldplayers.com.