A Christmas Film Classic Onstage

The Bigfork Playhouse Children’s Theatre presents A Christmas Story for five performances

By Maggie Dresser
Scenes from a past performance of “A Christmas Story” at the Bigfork Playhouse Children’s Theatre. Courtesy photo

The Red Ryder BB gun, fishnet leg lamp and the adventures of Ralphie Parker and his friends in the classic film A Christmas Story will transform into a musical this holiday season at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts.

With only three weeks of rehearsal from audition to opening night, more than 40 kids and 10 adults will take the stage on Dec. 13, 14, 15, 20 and 21.

After doing the Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol every year for four years, Artistic Director Brach Thomson realized he needed to keep things fresh and switch up the performances every season. Last year the Bigfork Playhouse Children’s Theatre performed A Christmas Carol, and in years past, Thomson wrote his own 80s version of the Scrooge. A Christmas Story was last performed in 2014.

“My audience gets fickle,” he said.

Thomson says this year’s script is slightly different from the previous performance five years ago, with parts of it filtered out. Thomson said he tries to keep the show to 90 minutes, which makes families happy to come and go. A few lines were cut and some music was tweaked, but is otherwise very similar to the last show in 2014.

While the film isn’t a musical, he says the performance has a jingly Christmas tune and embodies a standard Broadway show tune.

“I think the music is outstanding in the show,” he said.

Thomson says out of the all the Children’s Theatre’s shows, this is the only one where he allows adults to perform.

“I want those kids to get that time to shine,” he said.

This year’s performance will see some repeat cast members from the 2014 show who have moved up to different parts. The actor who played Ralphie in the last show has grown into the dad’s role, and the young actor who played Randy is now playing bully Scut Farkus’ role.

Thomson prides his theater on being audition only, and he typically turns 20 to 40 kids away. He wants the roles to mean something to the kids, and he hopes those who don’t make the cut strive to make the next show.

While he wants the children to have fun, Thomson also strives to put on a great show for his audience.

“Children’s theater has a bad stigma,” he said.

He says people have a pre-conceived notion that children’s theater performances inevitably don’t have a high-quality production. But his shows have full costumes and full lights. He ensures the kids sing in two- and three-part harmony, and he doesn’t settle for mediocrity. He says his audiences always leave pleasantly surprised.

“Nothing makes me happier than when you see people leave and say that was not what they expected,” he said.

A Christmas Story will be at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, Dec. 13, Saturday, Dec. 14, Friday, Dec. 20 and Saturday, Dec. 21 at 7:30 p.m., with a Sunday matinee on Dec. 15 at 2 p.m.

For more information and tickets, visit www.bigforksummerplayhouse.com.

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