October 23, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
44°F

Cleveland Play House revisits ‘A Christmas Story’ tradition

By JOHN BENSON

Special to The Gazette

A funny thing has happened to the Cleveland Play House with its annual holiday show “A Christmas Story,” which runs now through Dec. 21 in the Bolton Theatre.

While the stage production of Jean Shepherd’s 1983 holiday classic movie “A Christmas Story” originally was featured at a few community theaters around the country, it made its professional theater debut at the Cleveland Play House in 2005.

That means Cleveland Play House Associate Artistic Director Seth Gordon, who has directed every “A Christmas Story” so far, was given the opportunity to create the archetype of the beloved “You’ll shoot your eye out!” holiday production.

“Yes, it was very exciting to do that and we now have professional theaters all over the country who are calling us up and asking us about the play,” Gordon said.

Apparently, theater artistic directors and stage officials aren’t the only ones coming in to see “A Christmas Story.”

Gordon said the number of people traveling in from around Ohio or even out of state keeps growing.

There is something timelessly human about Shepherd’s memoir of growing up in the Midwest in the 1940s.

His story follows 9-year-old Ralphie Parker and his seemingly impossible dream of getting a genuine Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. The stories in Shepherd’s book “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” were used as the basis for the Hollywood movie “A Christmas Story,” which was filmed partially in Cleveland.

A quarter of a century later, “A Christmas Story” has become a Northeast Ohio tradition. Gordon said this year’s cast is slightly different, including new Adult Ralphie actor Wilbur Edwin Henry and set additions.

“We have a couple of new set pieces,” Gordon said. “There’s a very nice backdrop that didn’t use to be there so you get a much nicer sense of home in Indiana and the community that surrounds the Parker house. We did it because we’re always trying to improve the production, and it just adds a nice sense of production value that didn’t used to be there before.”

At this point, Gordon said Cleveland Play House officials are excited about the fact they have a bona fide holiday traditional show on their hands.

“I certainly hope so, it does seem to be something that people want to come back to, and we haven’t yet found the end of the supply of people who want to come and see us,” Gordon said.

Benson may be reached at ididhear@aol.com.

Preview

What: The Cleveland Play House presents “A Christmas Story.”

When: Now through Dec. 21 (times vary)

Where: Cleveland Play House, 8500 Euclid Ave., Cleveland.

Tickets: $48 to $58.

Info: 216-95-7000, ext. 4