WCT presents A Christmas Story

Thom Marriott, Ralphie Parker’s father in the Western Canada Theatre production of A Christmas Story, is dumbstruck by the lady lamp he finds in a mysterious create in his living room. Watching him are Sebastian Tow (Ralphie) and Anita Wittenberg-Tow (Mrs. Parker).   - DAVE EAGLES/KTW
Thom Marriott, Ralphie Parker’s father in the Western Canada Theatre production of A Christmas Story, is dumbstruck by the lady lamp he finds in a mysterious create in his living room. Watching him are Sebastian Tow (Ralphie) and Anita Wittenberg-Tow (Mrs. Parker). 
— image credit: DAVE EAGLES/KTW

Everyone knows Ralphie Parker only wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.

It has to be the one with a compass in the stock and “this thing which tells time.”

(For those who, like me, have never seen the movie A Christmas Story, the kid means a sun dial.)

If there’s one movie that is on many people’s list of favourite Christmas films, it’s this one, a slice of life inspired by the short stories of Jean Shepherd, an American radio personality and author.

It’s also the next play in Western Canada Theatre’s season, a seasonal offering designed for the family.

WCT artistic director Daryl Cloran said beyond his own fondness of the story, he loves the play because it showcases the Stage One Theatre Training Program.

“Almost all of the kids in this show [there are seven] have trained with Terri Runnalls at Stage One,” Cloran said.

“So, they all came into this production with a lot of understanding about acting and experience performing in front of an audience. And I’m really proud that we’re able to extend their training now by providing them this chance to be on a big stage alongside professional actors.”

Ralphie’s role is filled by Sebastian Tow, a Grade 5 student at Beattie School of the Arts.

It’s not Sebastian’s first appearance with WCT, where his father was artistic director before Cloran.

He appeared as Max in Where the Wild Things Are earlier this year and was in the cast of A Christmas Carol in 2010, when he played Tiny Tim.

Ralphie’s little brother, Randy, is played by Sylar Unser-Kleissen.

Cloran said the six-year-old “is just going to melt the audience’s heart when he hits the stage. He’s missing his two front teeth!

“And, he’s dong an amazing job remembering his lines and his blocking. We’ve built in little hand squeezes and cues from other actors onstage to remind him of his lines but, so far, he doesn’t need them.”

Working with child actors brings a new element of fun to rehearsals, Cloran said.

He is amazed at their dedication, noting they are putting in long, full days.

“The go to school during the day,” he said, “and then rehearse with us on the evenings and weekends.

“The kids are learning so much so quickly. Whenever they get a laugh from us in the audience, they look out proudly at us and I remind them they need to stay in the scene and forget about the audience.”

Rehearsals have been mainly in a small hall but the cast has been up to Sagebrush to work out a stunt.

“As they stood on the big stage and looked out at the 700 seats, their eyes got really wide,” Cloran said of his young actors.

“It was fun to watch them realize how big the audience was going to be and what an incredible opportunity this is.”

That’s not the only fun moment the cast and crew have had during rehearsals.

“There’s a big Santa slide in the show the kids get to ride,” Cloran said.

“We have them jumping into trap doors, shooting Red Ryder air rifles, throwing oatmeal around the stage — it’s a ton of fun for them!

Sebastian’s mother, Anita Wittenberg-Tow, is Mrs. Parker.

She was also in WCT performances of Noises Off and A Christmas Carol.

Cloran said the two are in perfect synch on stage.

“They are just fantastic together.”

Thom Marriott plays Ralphie’s father — known as The Old Man — while Shane Carty is the older Ralphie, narrator of the tale in the movie.

Marriott is a veteran of the Shaw and Stratford festival theatres in Ontario.

Carty has also worked with the Stratford Festival, as well as the Neptune Theatre, The National Arts Centre, Grand Theatre London, The Thousand Islands Playhouse, The Weston Playhouse and many others.

The play opens on Thursday, Nov. 29, for previews, with the official opening night on Saturday, Dec. 1. It continues to Saturday, Dec. 8.

Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. on  Mondays and Tuesdays, 8 p.m. on Wednesdays to Saturdays, with 2 p.m. matinees on Dec. 1 and Dec. 8. The Dec. 8 show is also a pay-what-you-can admission.

Tickets are at the Kamloops Live Box Office, 1025 Lorne St., 250-374-5483.

For more information, go here.

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