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Young actors a welcome gift in A Christmas Story
Terri Runnalls must be beaming every single day.
As the person charged with developing the Stage One program at Western Canada Theatre — basically introducing children and youth to acting — seeing some of her students in A Christmas Story has to be thrilling.
Because, simply put, these kids steal the show, not because they’re kids; rather, because they’re kids who can really act.
They hold their own up on the stage at Sagebrush Theatre with veterans like Shane Carty, Thom Marriott, Anita Wittenberg and Sheanna Beau James.
In doing so, they recreate a classic Christmas tale of Ralphie, Schwartz, Flick and Scut, of childhood dreams and bullying and of the magic Christmas brings.
For those who don’t know the story, all Ralphie (Sebastian Tow) wants for Christmas is “an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred-shot range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing, which tells time.”
Trying saying that several times without taking a breath.
Sebastian and Carty do it throughout the show.
Sebastian, a Grade 5 student at Beattie School of the Arts, is on stage as much as his older counterpart, Carty, in the role of Ralphie the narrator, and he doesn’t miss a mark.
I loved Alex Mittelsteadt as Flick and Eric Manholt as Schultz, Ralphie’s two best friends.
Cali Paige McKinlay as Esther Jane, the girl with her eye on Ralphie, and Sydney Preymark as Helen, Esther Jane’s best friend, well, I think I went to school with them when I was their age.
Lukas Vanderlip as Scut the bully was the bully many of us remember dodging on our way to school.
And, adorable Sylar Unser-Kleissen — what to say about a six-year-old making his big-stage debut in this Christmas gift to Kamloops? I wanted to scoop him up and direct him to the bathroom.
On to the adults.
Wittenberg was my mother, right down to the buck teeth, housecoat and eye-rolling when The Old Man (Marriott) wasn’t looking.
Marriott creates some of the funniest moments in the 140-minute play.
James has a small role as Miss Shields, but she commands the stage, particularly as she waxes over Ralphie’s theme assignment.
It’s simply too funny to try to describe.
Western Canada Theatre artistic director Daryl Cloran has directed some amazing theatre to Kamloops, from Ubuntu (The Cape Town Project) to Betrayal to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
However, as he introduced the play to the preview audience on Thursday, Nov. 29, you could tell from his bubbling energy he truly loves this production.
You will, too — and, if you can, take your kids, your grandkids or your neighbour’s kids.
There is no better way to introduce the next generation to all theatre can be than this production.
It continues to Saturday, Dec. 8.
Tickets are at the Kamloops Live Box Office, 1025 Lorne St., 250-374-5483.