MEET THE CAST: A CHRISTMAS STORY

Written By: Emme Duncan

During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, Theatre Workshop of Nantucket is bringing together an incredible ensemble of talent in a festive, heartwarming production for all ages. Nominated for three Tony Awards (Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Score), this 2012 musical adaptation of the classic 1983 movie is a beloved family holiday story following adorable Ralphie on his imaginative and endearing journey for a Red Ryder BB gun. N Magazine caught up with some of the cast and crew to talk about everything from bunny suits to favorite holiday gifts and more.

Bryan Knowlton, Director

knowlton-bryanWhat was the biggest challenge in directing this production? Probably scheduling… In professional theatre you usually rehearse 7 hours/day, 6 days/week. Coming to the beautiful island of Nantucket has to be a little different, of course, as we are incorporating a mix of professional actors coming in from NYC with the very talented people of Nantucket who have day jobs. Add children to the mix, who have school during the day, and double cast it and it becomes quite challenging to accommodate everyone with only 4 hours a day of rehearsal.

Most people are familiar with this story in its film form. How is it changed or enhanced on the stage? First, it’s a musical. The music is so brilliantly written and is quite clever, allowing this classic to come to life in a way that I find more kid-friendly than the movie. Second, I think it has a certain charm in that this musical captures a family who is real and has real struggles. You see with this family that the mother is not perfect, nor is the father, but the children look up to their parents and love them. The musical reminds us of that and its a beautiful thing.

What is the best gift you’ve ever received over the holidays? My favorite Christmas gift I’ve ever received comes in the form of a lovely story. When I was about 8, I remember our family had a really rough Christmas. I’m the eldest of four and my youngest sister, who had been born that September, was in and out of the hospital that winter. We weren’t exactly in the best position for a very fancy Christmas morning. When my mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told her that I wanted Santa to give all of my presents to my siblings, and I also told my CCD teacher that that was my wish. So Christmas morning came and was quite sparse, however, on Christmas evening our church came to our house and delivered many more gifts that Santa had forgotten to deliver. I remember seeing me mother at the kitchen table crying with my father. She was so thankful, and so was I. It was a magical evening.



Andrew Daume, “Ralphie” (Cast 1)

daume-andrewName your favorite moment from rehearsals. My favorite memory would have to be trying on the pink bunny suit for the first time… It definitely got some laughs when I showed my cast mates.

What is your favorite musical number in the show? “You’ll shoot your eye out”! The cast shows off some serious tap dancing skills (and the song is hilarious).

What is the best gift you’ve ever received over the holidays? A dog! My dog, Brodie, is the best.


 

 

Phineas Byrne, “Ralphie” (Cast 2)

byrne-phineasWhat is your favorite line from the show? My favorite line is when Santa says, “You’ll going to shoot your eye out kid.”

How did you prepare for your role in A Christmas Story? In preparation for my role I watched the movie and attended rehearsals with both casts. I could relate to Ralphie’s story in a few ways and that really helped me get into character.

What is the best gift you’ve ever received over the holidays? A pink bunny suit. JUST KIDDING! No, I wanted a pellet gun for two years, and my dad said, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” and my mom definitely did not want me to have one… but then, last year, I got a Gammo Little Cat .177 caliber Air Rifle with a 36″ overall length and 525 fps with Match Lead Pellets, Beechwood stock, metal barrel.



John-Michael Breen, “Ensemble”

breen-john-michaelWhat is the number one reason audiences should come to see A Christmas story? The whole cast and crew did such exceptional work putting this juggernaut together, but in particular the kids, all local, are out there giving it their all, show after show. It’s probably the toughest and most challenging musical for kids I’ve seen recently, and they’re doing wonderful work!

What is your favorite memory from rehearsals? I don’t want to spoil anything, but I’ll say that the ensemble dances with some rather interesting props in this production… so the first night we got to rehearse with those was pretty hilarious.

What is the best gift you’ve ever received over the holidays? I’ve been lucky to have never been wanting for more Christmas gifts in my life (thanks Mom, Dad, family, and Santa)… but one in particular I’ll mention. Last year a close friend received paid airfare and lodging as a Christmas gift and invited me to help choose the destination and accompany her on the journey. I’ll not soon forget that!



Susan McGinnis, “Mother”

mcginnis-susanWhat is your favorite line from the show? Gene: “You never questioned whether or not your parents loved you… but when they told you ‘…you’ll shoot your eye out…’ that’s what it was, love.”

How did you prepare for your role in A Christmas Story? Our director, Bryan Knowlton, was clear that his vision for our production included the esthetic of the iconic film. Therefore, in addition to reading the script, I watched the movie and listened to the recent Broadway version as well as the touring production. This way, I could see/hear how different actors played Mother… But ultimately I created my own interpretation, much of which is based on my relationships with my fellow actors. I think A.T. (who plays the Old Man) and I felt somewhat “parental” towards the boys playing our sons right from the get-go, in our desire for them to learn and grow in their roles and have a positive experience in this production. I relate to Mother because she wants the best for her family, and I want the best for the family that this A Christmas Story cast and crew have become.

What is the best gift you’ve ever received over the holidays? A yellow desk from my parents when I was probably around 9 years old.

 

For tickets to A Christmas Story, click here.