Creating a new musical based on a beloved film was a four-year labor of love by many, many people. The first time I heard the exhilarating score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, I knew all the hard work was going to pay off. I am so proud I was involved in telling this hysterically funny, heartfelt story of an American family trying to make it through the holidays.
To cope with the tight budget of a seasonal show and to give the musical the authentic look the movie achieves so beautifully, I vintage-shopped most of the costumes. It became a yearly ritual to renew the hunt for 1940s hats, coats, plaid scarves and Christmas pins for our stock. Ralphie’s plaid jacket was my first purchase and was always easy to spot in the crowd. From our first year at the wonderful shop at Kansas City Rep on, we started fittings in September to make sure all the hundreds of costumes could be found, fit and onstage by the end of October. As always, I had fun with color, composing a palette of period hues: navy, chocolate brown, cranberry red, pale gold and vivid forest green, which were highlighted by Walt Spangler's whimsical white set. Over the years, I enlisted friends all over the country to knit, sew and craft the beautiful pieces that completed the picture onstage.
It was crucial to be organized, because we were always adding new numbers to this show. One year, our fearless associate choreographer James Gray put in a Western-themed curtain call during tech rehearsals! The wardrobe people were the real heroes (imagine waiting backstage for a herd of child actors knowing you have 30 seconds to get them all into tap shoes). I've included some of my old sketches to show a few of the crazy characters we put into Ralphie's daydreams over the years.
Despite the insanity, I have many fond memories of making this show: working with the innovative Eric Rosen, bears in high heels in Kansas City, Kelly Devine's soaring blanket dance in Seattle, twelve-foot tall beasts with flailing arms, surviving the flea-bitten motel in Hershey, John Rando's incredible work with the kids, Warren Carlyle's flawless choreography, Luke Spring's flying feet, and our fantastic producer Jerry Goehring's merchandise booths in every lobby. John Bolton as the Old Man just got better and better; it was a thrill to design his fantasy leg-lamp chorus for the Great White Way!
Music & Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul • Book by Justin Robinette
Director: John Rando • Choreographer: Warren Carlyle
Set Design: Walt Spangler • Lighting Design: Howell Binkley • Sound Design: • Hair/Wig Design: Tom Watson
Cast: Tia Altinay, John Babbo, Zac Ballard, Charissa Bertels, John Bolton, Grace Capeless, Zoe Considine, Andrew Cristi, Mathew deGuzman, Erin Dilly, Thay Floyd, George Franklin, Nick Gaswirth, Eddie Korbich, Dan Lauria, Mark Ledbetter, Jose Luaces, Jack Mastrianni, Mara Newbery, Caroline O'Connor, Lindsay O'Neil, Sarah Min-Kyung Park, Johnny Rabe, J. D. Rodriguez, Analise Scarpaci, Lara Seibert Young, Jeremy Shinder, Luke Spring, Beatrice Tulchin, Joe West and Kirsten Wyatt.
Photos: Carol Rosegg