Thanks to TBS, Americans are treated to 24 hours of A Christmas Story every Christmas Day. But this year, Colorado Springs residents get something more than a 2D marathon of Ralphie, the leg lamp and his beloved Red Ryder BB Gun — we get the live experience.
Starting Thursday, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company will host a production of A Christmas Story. Written for the stage by Philip Grecian, it's loosely based on the 1983 classic holiday movie, which itself was based on the short stories of Jean Shepherd.
FAC producing artistic director Scott RC Levy hand-picked the play for this year's holiday show with new theater-goers in mind.
"We're not copying the movie," he says. "This is an interpretation of it. This is a modern holiday classic, and since people are so familiar with it, it provides an opportunity for people who don't usually come to the theater to get a whole new kind of experience."
Ralph vs. Ralphie
What makes the stage production unique is that the grown-up Ralph narrator is actually a physical part of the play. He not only explains scenes to the crowd, but also subtly interacts with the other characters. Portrayed by veteran FAC actor Jason Lythgoe, Ralph is the guiding light and guardian angel pushing young Ralphie in the right direction. Often Lythgoe acts as Ralphie's ego and id, bringing out the unique adolescent internal struggle, and world of make-believe, that most have forgotten.
"It's called a 'play' and if you don't play, it's boring," Lythgoe says. "We find those inner 9-year-olds inside of us reliving parts with Ralphie, but then throw in the 35-year-old commentary. It's [a] larger-than-life melodrama because that is where you have the real fun and just play, and that is something this performance is really good at — letting those fantasy scenes to come in."
Director Joye Levy says the beauty of this play is that it's a memory piece. It takes most of us back to memories not only of Christmas, but also to the joys of pure western Americana. She hopes that the audience gets to reflect on childhood and tell the funny stories of the time and the gifts they lived and died for.
"For those who actually grew up in the '30s, this is their life memory," she says. "For those of us who grew up in the '80s watching this with our families, this is our memory. And now the little kids who have never seen it will get to make those memories right there and here. It's painful and it's funny."
Screen to stage
The iconic scenes that audiences hold so dear are all in the play, but mixed with new scenes and extended takes to flesh out the importance of family and love in any situation. That's essentially the point: The cast and crew want audiences to walk away with the joy of a brief moment in time with their loved ones, the collective enjoyment of an exceptional work of theater.
"There is nothing quite like live theater," Lythgoe says, "whether it's a story you know or something totally new. Anything could happen at any time. You don't know the outcome. Seeing it done for you in front of your eyes, personally creating the magic, is so much more of an experience than sitting down grabbing a beer and watching a movie. It brings you into the world that you just don't get from listening to a voiceover. It gives it that personal connection."