With a cherished holiday film like “A Christmas Story” so firmly engrained in the American psyche, it might seem a risk to present the story in a stage play. After all, this film is known about as widely as the lyrics to “Jingle Bells,” and it wasn’t introduced to the world on the stage, but rather on the silver screen. However, the skilled artists at Tacoma Little Theater took the plunge and the outcome is a highly entertaining, and at times is a laugh-out-loud production that could easily become part of any family’s Christmastime tradition.
How did TLT do it? By not simply staging a copy of the movie that a lot of people know by heart by now. Instead, the stage adaptation, written by Philip Grecian and directed by TLT’s Jennifer York, at no time attempts to milk the many famous scenes that made the movie so popular, but rather wraps them into the overall tale fluidly and even throws in a surprise or two – like Ralphie’s first grade school crush.
TLT’s “A Christmas Story” stars Liam Loughridge as young Ralphie Parker, the kid who wants only a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas to the chagrin of his mother, teacher and even Santa himself. “You’ll shoot your eye out!” is all Ralphie hears from these grown-ups who just don’t understand. As the narrator, Blake R. York plays the adult Ralph Parker and moves about the stage throughout the show. This is another highlight of how the story is told at TLT, with as much attention given to the grown-up Ralph as is given to his wacky, loveable family.
While Ralphie’s mothering mother, played by Heidi Walworth-Horn, and his bombastic “Old Man,” played by Andrew Fry, try to get through the holidays in 1940s Indiana. Ralphie and his gang of friends try to as well – including escaping torture from neighborhood bully Scut Farkas. There are many funny highlights along the way – like the Old Man winning a “major award” leg lamp and Ralphie’s pal Flick (J.J. Greenwell,) seeing if his wet tongue really will stick to a frozen light pole – and these memorable scenes are what make “A Christmas Story” so endearing, as it is at heart, a tale of one American family from a nostalgic era gone by. As York writes in her director’s notes, “This story is less about the holiday itself and more about the feelings and moments that happen along the way. These moments resonate with us and, through stories like this, we relive them over and over again.”
The play stars a cast of actors of which some are seasoned and some are brand new. All of them do a great job and seemed to be having fun on opening night. The revolving stage and constantly changing sets made wonderful use of the space such that we follow Ralphie at home, walking the alleyway to school, visiting the Christmas tree lot and going to Higbee’s department store where he and brother Randy have a hilariously harrowing visit with a cranky Old Saint Nick and his disgruntled elves.
Don’t let this holiday season go by without rediscovering “A Christmas Story” in a whole new way. It plays through Dec. 20. Visit www.TacomaLittleTheatre.com or call (253) 272-2281 for show times and tickets.