The Winspear Opera House triple dog dares everyone in Dallas to show up when they present A Christmas Story, The Musical from Dec. 12 through 16. The movie that made pink bunnies, leggy lamps and almost shooting your eye out Christmas staples received the Broadway musical treatment, and the touring cast is including Dallas as one of their many stops across the U.S.
A Christmas Story originally started as 1983 film that followed the misadventures of 9-year-old Ralphie Parker as he experiences the ups and downs of Christmas in the 1940s. The story is based on the writings of Jean Shepard, most notably the novel In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash. A Christmas Story both embraces and skewers the golden haze that surrounds the nostalgia of childhood memories, as the adult Ralphie narrates a story in which children don’t always do as they’re told, and the parents in charge just might be an example of the patients running the asylum.
The film isn’t afraid to be a little dark when called upon, and while the musical stage version doesn’t remove any of the aspects that made the film the classic it’s considered today, it is more palatable for families looking to enjoy a night of theater.
“There’s a sweeter side to the musical,” director Matt Lenz tells us.
The adjustment for stage proved to be an effective one, with the musical being nominated for three Tony Awards in 2013, including Best Musical Score, Best Book of a Musical and Best Musical. Benji Pasek and Justin Paul, most known for their work on the film La La Land, contributed their efforts on the music and lyrics. The duo takes into account the time period in which the story is set, making each song sound like it could be playing on a mantle radio circa 1945.
Even with the pedigree of behind-the-scenes talent and award recognition, the original Broadway run was limited because of the subject matter. A Christmas musical selling tickets in July is not as likely as the many competitive titles fighting for tourism dollars, but the musical has consistently toured since 2013 around the country.
The limited holiday runs create a tight window in which to cast and rehearse before packing up the set and hitting the road. Lenz says the casting process starts as early as March or April, but the rehearsal process is usually about five weeks in studio before travel starts.
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Waiting closer to the time of production to start rehearsal is key, as a majority of the show’s performers are children, who are subject to puberty and all the voice changes that come with it. The production crew is mindful and prepared in case someone who sang perfect falsetto months ago is ushered by nature into a different vocal range.
Lenz says that A Christmas Story as a musical enhances the original story, providing deeper insight into Ralphie’s mother, who receives less attention in the film. Lenz stressed that although music and character development is added for the stage production, it is not a musical that changes the key elements that made the movie popular in the first place.
“They know how beloved so many moments in the film are, and they make sure to include them,” Lenz says. “Having those scenes are so important to audiences that love them. Paired with the music, it provides a whole new level of experience.”