Stage West Community Theatre’s holiday production, which runs this weekend and next, offers a show that is both fun and fascinating trip back to the heyday of old-time radio, and a new take on what has become a beloved Christmas comedy.
“A Christmas Story” will be produced as a radio play from the days before television. Performances will be at the Ocean Shores Lions Club, 832 Ocean Shores Blvd., Fridays and Saturdays, Dec. 6-7, 13-14 at 7 p.m. and Sundays, Dec. 8 and 15, at 2 p.m.
The now-familiar tale is based on the semi-autobiographical remembrances of writer and humorist Jean Shepard, which he first created in a series of humorous short stories about growing up in the steel towns of northwest Indiana. Many of these are collected in one of his books, “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.”
He wove several of the stories into the screenplay for the 1983 movie, “A Christmas Story.” It follows Ralphie, a young boy who wants nothing more than the Official Red Ryder 200-shot Carbine Action Range Model Air Rifle for Christmas. Alas, his mother, teacher and others are exhibiting “an irrational prejudice against Red Ryder’s peace-maker,” and even the big man himself, Santa, warned, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”
The movie was a box office failure, but hundreds of cable TV airings eventually turned it into a holiday classic that has spawned stage versions and even a musical.
Stage West’s take on “A Christmas Story” is a full-cast theatrical production featuring actors performing the radio script, accompanied by live sound effects, which are known as “Foley,” named for Jack Foley, creator of sound effects for early movies. In the era of popular radio dramas, “Foley artists” became vital parts of the cast. This Stage West production is faithful to that tradition, with Marty Hadfield and Erin Lee serving as Foley artists, complete with an assortment of sound-making props.
Lorraine Hardin, board member and secretary of the local nonprofit, said this is a show she has wanted to produce for several years, but, “our small stage simply wouldn’t allow for the necessary staging.”
Director Eric Bjella has hoped to bring radio plays to the Stage West stage for a long time, and said this show lends itself beautifully to that type of production. He explained that the original play version has several somewhat elaborate sets, but “by performing it as a radio play, we get to hear all the voices in the story with one single set.”
Bjella added that he has seen the radio play version staged by a small theater group, and found it to be a fun and fresh (in a vintage sort of way) version of the story. He said he and Hardon are pleased “to be working with such a talented, enthusiastic and hard-working cast.”
Cast members include Bryan Blackburn, who narrates the story as the adult Ralph; Addi Baggaley as young Ralphie Parker, Karin Noble as Ralphie’s patient mother, Samara Gibson as little brother Randy, and Myke Holford as the kids’ dad, “The Old Man.” Also in the cast are Cai Hadfield, Megan Christiansen, Keira Gibson, Michelle Arape, Tailtynn Baggaley, Jacob Francis, Louis Stark and Jay Dalton.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and are available at Mocha Madness, The Dusty Trunk and online at www.stagewestcommunitytheatre.org.