It's never too early to talk about A Christmas Story.
Not much of a critical or commercial success when it was released in 1983, A Christmas Story surged in popularity on home video, especially after TNT (and then later, TBS) began airing its 24-hour Christmas Day marathon in 1988 and children from the '40s started feeling nostalgic about BB guns, bullies and tasty flagpoles.
These days, it's regularly recognized as a holiday classic. And now there's a musical version of it to boot.
A Christmas Story, The Musical is coming to the Wang Theatre at the Citi Performing Arts Center in Boston, where it will run from Wednesday, Nov. 20, to Sunday, Dec. 8.
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The musical, written by the composer/lyricist team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, opened on Broadway in November 2012, after which it was nominated for three Tony Awards including Best Musical. The show stars John Bolton as the Old Man, Erin Dilly as Mother, Jake Lucas as Ralphie and familiar face Dan Lauria as the show's narrator, Jean Shepherd.
Anyone with a nostalgic bone in his or her body will recognize Lauria from his longtime role on The Wonder Years, on which he played Kevin Arnold's father Jack. He got the Christmas Story gig after Vince Vaughn saw him play legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi in the acclaimed Lombardi on Broadway and asked him to be on a new TBS sitcom he was producing called Sullivan and Son, which has a Christmas Story connection.
"Peter Billingsley (who played Ralphie in A Christmas Story and is a producer for the musical) is one of Sullivan and Son's executive producers, and he asked me, 'How'd you like to be in a Broadway musical?' " said Lauria. "I told him I couldn't sing a note. Thankfully I don't have to -- that would kill the show."
Lauria isn't on stage during most of the musical's production numbers, which include titles such as "Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun," "A Major Award" and, obviously, "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out.
"For Lombardi, I really had to get the voice and the mannerisms down," said Lauria. "Jean Shepherd was a lot slower than what we need in the play, so I speed him up a bit to keep the energy of the kids going."
Die-hard fans of the film may be hesitant to accept the bright lights and leg lamp kick-lines (oh, yes) of the musical, not wanting their childhood memories to be bastardized like Ralphie's Little Orphan Annie decoder pin. Lauria said not to worry.
"People come in with a chip on their shoulders, crying 'What have you done with my favorite movie?' " said Lauria.
Lauria has appeared in more than 20 Movie of the Week productions and 70 guest starring roles on television, as well as written, directed or starred in more than 50 live plays. His sitcom Sullivan and Son is set to air its third season in 2014. At this point in his career, he knows what works.
"I think it just brings back the spirit of Christmas," said Lauria. "It's kind of like The Wonder Years, in that it captures a kid's biggest goal in life, which is to be accepted by his dad. It's not about a Christmas gift -- it's really about love and respect. And that hasn't changed."
Tickets for A Christmas Story, A Musical are priced from $45 to $125. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 2 p.m.; and Sundays at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. For information, visit citicenter.org.
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