By now, it’s hard to believe that there are people who haven’t seen the 1983 Christmas comedy, “A Christmas Story.”
I mean, it’s nearly impossible not to catch a glimpse of the film when flipping through channels on Christmas day since TBS began its 24-hour “A Christmas Story” marathon.
One scene that will forever be ingrained in my mind is when the character Flick gets his tongue stuck to a metal pole after being triple-dog dared.
While this is what stayed with me the most, and is probably the reason many kids got their tongues stuck to icy poles, Ralphie Parker’s story resonates for many other reasons.
Who doesn’t remember that one Christmas where there was one present they wanted more than anything? And the joy of finding that particular gift under the tree or disappointment when it wasn’t there?
“A Christmas Story” is the story of the anticipation and excitement that comes every holiday season.
And whether it be the desire for a certain gift, or the anticipation of a certain holiday event, most everyone has something they look forward to during the holiday season. (Even if it’s just for it to be over.)
Billie Wildrick, a vivacious actress from Seattle who plays Ralphie’s mother Mrs. Parker, spoke with me about the show, as well as some of her favorite holiday memories.
So, this year, skip the TBS marathon and head to The Ordway for a musical version of the holiday classic.
People are familiar with the movie, how will this show be similar to the film? How will it differ?
Well, of course, our Parker family sings and dances! So we get to go much farther in celebrating and relishing all the victories, as well as the oh-so-tragic defeats, that the characters go through in the movie.
There are definitely leg lamps, frozen poles, a mean Santa and a certain fuzzy, pink present from Aunt Clara. We do come up a little short in the Ovaltine and decoder ring department I’m afraid, but all of your other favorite anti-Christmas icons will be there waiting for you.
I love theatre because when a new group of people get together to take on characters and reenact a story that you may already know, they bring their own hearts, souls, choices and experiences to it. The story becomes fuller, more relatable and more universal. I think stories really are the most beautiful collective possession of the human race. I love my particular Parker family and all the residents of our own Hohman, Indiana. St. Paul is lucky to have such a wonderful, kind and talented community of actors!
So funny you mention the frozen pole! That is a scene that always stuck with me.
Oh yes, poor Flick definitely takes that double-dog-dare [in our production].
Sounds like many elements of the film will be seen in this adaption. But this is a musical, while the movie was not. What do you think the musical numbers add to the story?
The songs illuminate the subtext – what the characters are thinking and feeling about the zaniness.
While the narration of Jean Shepherd, which is still in the musical, tells you a little bit about what goes through Ralphie’s brain [in the film], in the musical you get to enjoy much more of the other characters.
I think that helps you get to know the characters, maybe see yourself in them, which makes the funnies funnier and the heartfelt moments mean more.
So, do the songs provide more of a back story, or will it focus mainly on the family?
You get more points of view than just Ralphie’s via Jean Shepherd in the musical, which is really fun. Miss Shields, played by the hilarious Erin Schwab, runs a classroom that transforms into several different fantasy places in Ralphie’s mind. All right before your eyes! And you get to spend lots of time in the show with the massively talented kids by themselves. The young actors in this show are remarkable!
Sounds like a lot of fun! Do you have any favorite songs or scenes from the show?
Oh, it’s hard to pick! Pasek and Paul wrote a great score. I have a song in act two to Ralphie that really touches my heart, “Major Award” is hilarious and the finale is human, funny and absolutely gorgeous at the same time.
As far as scenes go, I have always been fascinated by the Leg Lamp disaster. Did Mrs. Parker do it on purpose or not?!
Haha, I think that’s something we all want to know! For those not familiar with the story it can perhaps seem a bit materialistic as it is, on the outside, a story about a boy’s quest for the perfect present. What do you think the real message behind the story is? How do you think it teaches a lesson about the holiday spirit?
“A Christmas Story” is a story about family. I don’t think this is a story Shepherd tells because of a BB gun. I think he remembers that gun because his “Old Man”, his dad, gave it to him. I think he remembers this particular Christmas because the family had to get through a lot of crazy stuff to make it happen. I think surviving crazy stuff together reminds us that having each other is really the most important thing.
That’s a great way to describe the show! So, tell me, did you ever have Christmas present you wanted as badly as Ralphie wants the BB gun in the show?
I really, really wanted a My Pet Monster when I was eight. I was so happy when I saw him under the tree! I named him George and loved him like a best friend.
So, was that your favorite Christmas present?
My Pet Monster George is definitely a stand out! Currently, I am particularly grateful for a really warm pair of white fuzzy snow boots my mom got me a few years back. Being from Seattle, I’m finding it a little nippy here in St. Paul.
I can imagine! Although it’s gotten a bit better as the show’s run has gone on. Speaking of St. Paul, have you performed at the Ordway before? What do you like about the space, or about performing in St. Paul/Minneapolis?
I was here a few years back as Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls” (2011) and had a ball! I just love the people – dressers, carpenters, creatives, marketing staff and actors. It reminds me of the community we have in Seattle. People really value living here, so you get performers happy to take an ensemble role even though they are fully capable of playing leading roles at high levels. Our show benefits from that. Every character is brought to full, Technicolor life by an awesome local actor. Also, I love all the beautiful domes in the city and having snow! We don’t get a lot of that in Seattle!
“A Christmas Story, The Musical” was WCCO viewers’ choice for best holiday show! It is open now through Dec. 28. Tickets range from $33 through $95. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit The Ordway online.