Want to get into the festive spirit of Christmas?
That may be easier than pleasing people on your shopping list. Just buy a ticket or two to catch Sierra Repertory Theatre's rendition of the holiday classic "Christmas Story" and head up to the east Sonora venue.
I thoroughly enjoyed the play this past weekend and was pleasantly surprised that SRT managed to capture the magic of the 1983 movie in its stage adaptation while adding new elements that enriched the storyline. If anything, it made me want to break out my DVD of the Christmas classic before Thanksgiving. But I recommend catching it in December, but don't wait long. This could be a heavy favorite.
For sure, there is the leg lamp drama, the Bumpus' dogs devouring the Christmas turkey, the bullying of Scut Farkus in the snow-covered alley, the coming of age realization that Little Orphan Annie and her Secret Decoder Pin was nothing but an advertising ploy to sell Ovaltine. But SRT came up with a new character, Esther Jane Alberry (played by Autumn Jachetta) who has a crush on our 9-year-old Ralphie Parker who could care less about romance as his life's mission is seeking a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle. SRT's Ralphie, played by 12-year-old Joey Fitzgerald, resembles "Where's Waldo?" character - with his giant oversized glasses - than he does the impish Peter Billingsly in the movie, but he carries all the same pure innocence of someone battling the prejudice of him owning a B-B gun that could, really, shoot his eye out.
Unlike the disembodied voice of movie narrator and creator Jean Shepherd, the audience in Sonora is treated to the narration of adult Ralphie played by actor Kevin McKillip who moves around the action undetected by the live action. He is enthusiastic in recreating for the audience his cherished childhood memories and elicits laughs throughout the play. At the end, McKillip captures the sadness of an adult looking back and longing for the days of innocence, which he cannot return to.
Kevin Crowley, who has multiple TV credits including CSI and Murphy Brown, does a superb job of playing the Old Man.
The set of the Parker home is charmingly authentic to the warm, nostalgic era, and changes with a mere backyard fence enable the audience to see the goings-on of the alley and school yard where Flick sticks his tongue to the frozen flagpole. The magic of set changes allow us to see the children plead their cause to Santa Claus (who is heard but not seen) before being ejected from the holiday throne via a plastic slide back down to the sales floor.
"It's always fun and challenging to translate iconic holiday movies to the stage," noted SRT Artistic Director Scott Viets. "We've done it before with White Christmas, It's A Wonderful Life and now, A Christmas Story. These shows are very well-written and evoke a warm nostalgia for holidays past - and they are challenging in that you are working with movies that are so beloved. There are certain expectations of how it should feel and look when presented on stage. The nature of it being live will make it fresh and unique while hopefully capturing the essence of what continues to make these stories so enduring decade after decade."
A Christmas Story opened Nov. 11 and runs through Sunday, Dec. 18 with performances Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Thursdays at either 2 or 7 p.m.. Tickets run from $32 to $37, with senior, student and child discounts available. The show is rated G for audiences six and up (but children under the age of six are not allowed in the theatre). For tickets and information, visit www.sierrarep.org or call the Box Office at 532-3120.