Whether you recognize it for the witty dialogue, the classic themes or its simple holiday charm, many can relate to A Christmas Story on different levels.
Based on Jean Shepherd’s book, In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash and the holiday favorite film that gets its own 24-hour marathon each year on Turner Broadcasting, A Christmas Story is a nostalgic look at growing up in the Midwest during the 1940s.
Featuring 9-year-old Ralphie Parker (played by Samuel Whited), each day he’s on a mission for basic survival, which is often a chore. Whether it’s dodging the local bully, catching the eye of a schoolgirl at the playground, decoding secret messages by Little Orphan Annie or persuading adults to buy him his most-prized possession of the year: The legendary official Red Ryder carbine-action 200 shot range-model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.
Clearly, that’s one of my favorite lines of dialogue from the movie.
Currently appearing at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville, TN, the Nashville Repertory Theatre recreates all of the aforementioned small-town charm and molds the subject matter into its own creation. Performed by a seven-person ensemble cast, all of the main characters make an appearance. In fact, many of the actors portray multiple characters. I had fun trying to figure out each actor’s alias throughout the evening. Once in a while, different characters take turns voicing the Narrator’s role, as well.
My favorite character in the play is Ralphie’s teacher, Miss Shields, expertly portrayed by David Compton (who is also The Old Man, among others). He never missed a beat throughout the performance, whether he was interacting with his fellow actors or members of the audience. He’s truly talented.
Throughout the evening, the actors encouraged audience interaction, as well. Whether it’s barking like the Bumpus Hounds, whistling like a howling wind or reciting, “You’ll shoot your eyes out,” participation is fun, joining in on the action on stage.
The play is faithful to its source material, although it isn’t a note-for-note reproduction. At times, the actors improvise a bit and there are even a few instances where the show reimagines certain elements of the story, but the overall storyline isn’t damaged. Great original bits include the Red Ryder cowboys, the Ester Jay girlfriend scenario and the hilarious leg-lamp dance.
As a dedicated fan, I’ve previously read Jean Shepherd’s book and faithfully watched the majority of the movie’s 24-hour marathons for the past 14 years on basic cable. Looking back at one’s childhood can never be faithfully recreated, but the Nashville Rep’s recreation of small-town life and a little boy’s anticipation for the holidays are entertaining.
Now’s the time to get nostalgic while getting into the holiday spirit. Relive Christmases past at this enjoyable show. A Christmas Story is now playing at TPAC through December 21st.