CTC's 'A Christmas Story' a musical - Dec. 6-22

CTC's 'A Christmas Story' a musical - Dec. 6-22

December 5th, 2013 by Clint Cooper in Chattnow Art

Cannon Hunt, as Ralphie Parker, left, is warned about shooting his eye out by Jeff Hill, as Santa Claus, in "A Christmas Story."

IF YOU GO

* What: "A Christmas Story, The Musical!"

* When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Dec. 6-7, 13-14, 20-21; 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12 and 19; plus 2:30 p.m. matinees Dec. 7, 14-15 and 21-22.

* Where: MainStage, Chattanooga Theatre Centre, 400 River St.

* Admission: $30 opening night, other performances $12.50-$25.

* Phone: 423-267-8534.

* Website: TheatreCentre.com.

You know "A Christmas Story," of course -Ralphie, his BB gun quest, "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out," the leg lamp and all that.

But, chances are, you don't know the musical and what it adds to the stage version of the classic 1983 movie, which was taken from an original story by Jean Shepherd.

Neither did Scott Dunlap, the Chattanooga Theatre Centre's Youth Theatre director, until the 2013 Tony Awards in June. "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out," a tap number from the thrice-Tony nominated production, was sung on the show.

"It was incredible," Dunlap says. "It was my favorite from the show. I thought, 'What is this? It's kind of exciting and fun'."

CTC officials already were considering doing the musical for their holiday offering. A couple of days after the Tonys, they learned they'd gotten the rights.

Flash-forward nearly six months. On Friday, Dec. 6, "A Christmas Story, the Musical!" will open on the MainStage and continue for 13 shows through Dec. 22.

"They've mined it for a lot of emotion and fun at the same time," Dunlap says of musician Benj Pasek and lyricist Justin Paul (with book by Joseph Robinette). They've pulled out "threads and themes" in the movie, he says, and turned them into songs about the meaning of family and Christmas.

All the comedic moments offered in the movie - and subsequent nonmusical stage play - are still there, he says, but the musical makes the playgoer see the experience as something new.

"You forget about the movie," he says.

Among the musical numbers, Dunlap says, are several by Ralphie's mother that are "so moving and touching and wonderful," and others by Ralphie's father - The Old Man - that are "songs of buffoonery."

Overall, he says, musical theater fans will find themselves believing they already know the music, reminiscent as the numbers are of 1940s swing songs, of Broadway favorites and of Christmas songs you'll think you've heard a thousand times.

As fresh, nostalgic and fun as it is, Dunlap says, it's been challenging for the cast of 30, which includes 16 children under age 18.

"The challenge has been that nobody's heard" the songs, he says. "It's not a part of us in the same way" classic musicals like "Oklahoma" are. "It's like working on a totally original musical, but it's been fun."

CTC executive director George Quick is musical director for the show, and Lindsay Fussell is choreographer.

Dunlap says the production is one of the hardest things he's ever done but will be worth it for family audiences to add to their Christmas plans.

"It's a fresh take," he says.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.OVERSET FOLLOWS:com/ClintCooperCTFP.