Pull on your pink bunny suit, turn off your leg lamp and be sure to drink your Ovaltine as you head out for a night with the Parker family in “A Christmas Story: The Musical.”
The Broadway adaptation of the classic 1983 movie comes to Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., for five performances from Friday, Nov. 17, through Sunday, Nov. 19. Presented by Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the show follows 11-year-old Ralphie Parker as he longs for a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas and deals with his quirky family and the dilemmas of childhood in the 1940s.
“They will see all of their favorite moments (from the film): the flag pole, the pink bunny pajamas, the Bumpus hounds and my personal favorite moment of me putting the bar of soap in (Ralphie’s) mouth,” said Sara Zoe Budnik, who plays Ralphie’s mother. “All the best moments are included and done so well in the musical.”
The original film starring Peter Billingsley and Darren McGavin became a holiday viewing staple over the years, especially as channels TNT and TBS ran it for 24 hours straight on Christmas in recent years. Despite its prevalence, “A Christmas Story” never made it to Budnik’s TV screen before the California native auditioned for the musical. She thought doing her own version of the character without watching the original might be more interesting for her tryout, she said, and while she’s watched the film since then, Budnik still set out to make the character hers.
“It’s interesting because the original actress who played the mother, Melinda Dillon, she’s so incredibly interesting and very specific and unique,” Budnik said recently by phone. “And when you translate anything from a movie to a musical, a lot changes. So it has kind of become a process of making (the role) my own, and of course you don’t want to mimic anything, but the movie is so highlighted. It’s highlighted very well in the musical version, and I think it brings a whole new zhoosh to the show, making it a musical.”
One of the most iconic scenes in the film, when the Old Man receives a lamp shaped like a sexy leg, comes to life in a big dance number in which the cast hoofs it with several lamps.
“It’s like a big, Broadway, classic showstopping number,” Budnik said. “And it’s led by the Old Man. It’s so funny, and you just have to see it.”
While Budnik’s song, “What a Mother Does,” about her character going about her daily tasks, has become one of her favorite songs she’s ever performed, Ralphie sings her top tune in the show, “Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun.”
“The song is just really incredible,” Budnik said. “The orchestrations just are so ear-catching. It’s impossible not to smile while you’re watching this kid live out his Christmas fantasy, and it just brings nostalgia back to your youth and all the things that you wanted for Christmas.”
Budnik has to try not to laugh in the scene in which her character washes out Ralphie’s mouth with soap, and she has to make sure she gets the bar in just right. She works with about a dozen kids in the production and was surprised by their talent and how well they captured their characters.
“I’ve never worked with kids before, and it’s incredible, their voices and their dance abilities and the acting choices that they make,” Budnik said. “They’re fearless, and they’re just so excited to start the tour.”
The show reminds audiences of the Christmases of their youth, Budnik said, describing it as “incredibly relatable.”
“I think I’m just so excited for everybody to see how much heart is betrayed by each character,” she said. “Each character just shows so much love toward one another, and it’s so honest, and it’s just a show that’s for every family member.”