The film, A Christmas Story
, co-written and narrated in 1983 by Jean Shepherd
, legendary WOR voice and iconic storyteller, holds a special place in my heart. In 1997, I had the opportunity to interview Shepherd on my show on WFAN
. He had become sort of a recluse, years removed from his work and living on Sanibel Island in Florida. His accountant is a friend of mine and connected me to him. I had him on my show on WFAN for almost two hours as we talked about his passion for baseball, a variety of issues in sports, his legendary, multi-faceted career in radio, television, print and on stage, and we took calls from many of his loyal followers.
The interview was the first he had done in years at the time and to my knowledge, one of the last, if not, the final interview. I remember how much attention the interview garnered back then based on his loyal fan base and those who yearned to hear his iconic voice and talent for story-telling. When the interview aired, I heard from many, from broadcaster Tom Snyder to Jerry Seinfeld
, who has always said that Shepherd was his mentor. Shepherd passed in 1999, two years after he did the interview with me on WFAN.
If you're like me, you're thinking, 'how could the seasonal film favorite possibly be transformed into a Broadway musical?' Well, I was delightfully surprised with the result! The musical and dance numbers add spice to the classic story of Little Ralphie's obsession with getting a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Dan Lauria
's narration ties the show together in one big Holiday present - his voice and acting are just right.
Dan Lauria plays Jean Shepherd in "A Christmas Story The Musical" (Photo: Carol Rosegg/achristmasstorythemusical.com)
is perfectly cast as Ralphie's father; Erin Dilly shines as Ralphie's mother and Johnny Rabe captures every essence of the 'Ralphie' character in addition to singing and moving on stage seamlessly.
, a nine-year-old performer, steals part of the show with a tap dancing sequence. The kid is amazing, even tapping on his toes!
Dan Lauria said he was recruited to play Jean Shepherd in the musical by Peter Billingsley, who played 'Ralphie' in the film, and who is one of the producers of the musical. Billingsley and actor Vince Vaughn are partners and Executive Producers of Sullivan and Sons, a TBS
series in which Lauria is among the cast.
Lauria told me that he prepared for his role as Jean Shepherd by listening to his voice and remembering him from his youth. "Everyone in my generation knows that voice," says Lauria. "Growing up, it was a big thing for my Dad and me to listen to Jean Shepherd."
"What separates it from the movie are the dance numbers," explains Lauria. "John Rando, our Director, did such a great job. Benj Pasek
and Justin Paul
wrote such a great score. The performers are so talented."
Ironically, Lauria says he can't sing a note. "I can't even sing in the shower. I go into the room and I'm the least talented person in the room," he jokes. "The cast is so talented!"
The Ensemble performs an act during "A Christmas Story The Musical" (Photo: Carol Rosegg/achristmasstorythemusical.com)
"It's not like Lombardi
(the Broadway musical in which Lauria and Judith Light
starred) where I could do his (Lombardi's) voice. That was easy to do. With Jean Shepherd, I can't quite do the voice that he uses because it's at a much slower pace than the musical. With the play moving at such a quick pace, you have to modulate your voice and the sound of your speaking with the speed of what's going on with the play."
Despite "the art of story-telling quickly evaporating, we have tried to keep that story telling element in the play," Lauria says.
And that 'story-telling element,' along with the song and dance numbers, make this musical a 'must-see' for the Holidays!
Ann hosts her weekly WFAN Radio radio show every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., heard in the Hamptons on WPPB 88.3 FM. www.annliguori.com