Those for whom it wouldn’t be December without a viewing of “A Christmas Story” — the 1983 film that mixes a BB gun and bunny suit into the spirit of the season — can catch up with Ralphie and his family live this month.
Both Olympia Little Theatre and Broadway Olympia are producing stage versions of the heartwarming yet not overly sweet holiday tale, based on a semi-autobiographical story by Jean Shepherd.
“It walks a very fine line between not being too sarcastic and not being too reverential about Christmas,” OLT artistic manager Kendra Malm told The Olympian. “You can laugh at all of the expectations we have about Christmas, and at the same time, it comes up with a happy ending.”
Olympia Little Theatre’s version, opening Friday, tells the familiar tale as a radio play, while Broadway Olympia’s musical production, launching Dec. 20, ran at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre in 2010 before it went to Broadway in 2012.
Both Malm, who’s directing OLT’s “Story,” and Mariah Moore, co-directing the Broadway Olympia production, are longtime fans of the film, remembered for its leg lamp and the moment when Ralphie’s friend Flick licks a frozen flagpole.
“In my house growing up, it was a staple every single year,” Moore told The Olympian. “It takes me back to a time when I was little and had daydreams about fighting off bad guys or just how much that one present would mean to me.”
For Ralphie, “that one present” is a BB gun, which both Santa and his mom think is a very bad idea. For Moore, it was a life-size Barbie doll. (She got it.)
Malm still watches “A Christmas Story” nearly every December. She has the special-edition DVD, and it was the extra information that led her to the idea to stage Philip Grecian’s theatrical adaptation as a radio play.
“I found out that Jean Shepherd started off by telling stories on the radio,” she said, and that immediately suggested to me ‘Why don’t I do this as a radio play?’ ”
The play is well suited for radio, she said, because adult Ralph (Ben Tindall) narrates the action and sets the scenes. Tindall will read a few stage directions, too, to bring in such purely visual elements as the leg lamp that Ralphie’s dad prizes.
The radio format allows for creative costuming — Malm set it at a radio station in 1972 — and casting. Adult actress Megan Wakefield plays Ralphie, whose mother is played by 13-year-old Lulu Rogers-Dekker, who attends Tumwater Middle School.
Grecian’s script sticks close to the film version, and so does “A Christmas Story: The Musical,” with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and book by Joseph Robinette.
Kyle Murphy, Broadway Olympia’s managing director, chose “A Christmas Story” both for its perennial appeal and because of the Olympia connections to the musical. The 2010 Seattle run starred Olympia native Clarke Hallum and had as its music director Ian Eisendrath of Olympia.
“It’s a reminder that a kid from our little town can chase their dreams, and, ultimately, achieve them at the highest level,” he told The Olympian.
Murphy, who’s playing Ralphie’s dad in the Broadway Olympia production, wants to leave audiences with sweet dreams, too.
“Right now, I just want people to have fun,” he said. “I want them to laugh, I want them to feel something familiar. I want them to sing songs on the car ride home, and I want them to smile until 2019.”
‘A Christmas Story’
- What: Olympia Little Theatre tells the beloved tale of a boy growing up in the 1940s as a radio play being produced at a station in the 1970s.
- When: 7:25 p.m. Friday and Saturday plus Dec. 14, 15 and 20-22, and 1:55 p.m. Sunday plus Dec. 16 and 23
- Where: Olympia Little Theater, 1925 Miller Ave NE, Olympia
- Tickets: $9-$15
- More information: 360-786-9484, olympialittletheater.org
‘A Christmas Story: The Musical’
- What: Broadway Olympia presents the musical version, which had a 2010 run in Seattle before it hit Broadway.
- When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20-22 and 1 p.m. Dec. 22-24
- Where: Capitol Theater, 206 Fifth Ave. SE, Olympia
- Tickets: $22 and $25
- More information: 360-754-6670, olyfilm.org