By Frankie Kujawa
Running from Tuesday, December 21-23, A Christmas Story, The Musical brings the classic 1983 movie to hilarious life on stage at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre. Charm City audiences will be delighted as the young and bespectacled Ralphie Parker schemes his way toward the holiday gift of his dreams, an official Red Ryder® Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. Actor Sam Hartley, who plays Ralphie’s father (The Old Man), recently sat down to discuss this upcoming performance.
Frankie Kujawa: What can audiences expect from this production of A Christmas Story, The Musical?
Sam Hartley: Well, it’s your favorite holiday-binged movie come to life on stage in front of your eyes. It’s everything that you remember of the movie. The BB Gun, the sticking-your-tongue-to-the-flagpole, the Leg Lamp major award – all those iconic [A Christmas Story] movie moments. We’ve transformed this all onto the stage with big Broadway dance numbers and songs. It’s one of those shows that I think is perfect for all ages. I think it’s perfect if you love the movie, and I think it also works if you’ve never seen it. It’s one of those feel good, family friendly classics.
FK: Could you describe your role as ‘The Old Man’ in A Christmas Story, The Musical?
SH: So, I play ‘The Old Man’ which is Ralphie’s dad. His name is Frank Parker, but he’s affectionately known as ‘The Old Man. Frank Parker is the grouchy father of Ralphie and Randy. He loves his family very much but doesn’t always do a great job of showing it. And, you know, this show takes place just after the [Great] Depression, so [Mother and I] are a couple that’s trying to give the best holiday to their kids as possible. It was a time in America when there wasn’t much. Radio was pretty much how you were entertained. Very small things went a long way back in 1940. Frank Parker is an avid crossword puzzle enthusiast. He finally turns in his crossword puzzle and is rewarded handsomely with a major award. That’s the gist of 'The Old Man.'
"It’s a chance to come to the theater with your given or chosen family, and just really cherish that we get to experience this all together. We get to be in the theatre – the lights will go down and the overture will start – and both actor and audience get to experience the magic of theater together as a family. " - Actor, Sam Hartley (The Old Man)
FK: What sets this version of 'The Old Man' apart from the iconic 1983 film version?
SH: Well, I think what sets us apart as a production as whole is it’s a musical. Good musical theater at its best takes a moment of heightened emotion - whether it’s something that is happy, sad, angry, excitable, or tragic - and turns it into a song. There’s a musical theater quote somewhere in the universe that says, ‘When you can no longer speak about it, you must sing. And when you have no words, you must dance.’ So, I think good musical theater really follows through with that thought. So, I hope to deliver everything that you remember of 'The Old Man' from the movie, but I get to sing and dance, as well. I get this incredible production number called ‘Major Award,’ and you probably can guess what it’s about. The entire ensemble joins me on stage for this dream sequence of this gruff dad finally living his fantasy of being acknowledged as smart, worthy, clever and educated. Which many men weren’t, at that time. So I think the unique angle that we will bring is the musical element.
"I’m 33-years old, and I tend to get a little guff from people when they say - ‘You’re playing 'The Old Man?' That doesn’t make any sense!’ And I always reply, ‘The role is not an old man, he’s just ‘The Old Man.’ It’s just Ralphie’s dad and that's what they referred to back then."
FK: Considering that Christmas is just a few days after this Baltimore production, what do you hope audiences take away from A Christmas Story, The Musical?
SH: We sort of boiled down the story early on in rehearsals about ‘What is this story about?’ Initially, most people’s responses are ‘Oh, it’s about Christmas’ or ‘Oh, it’s about your favorite gift that you’ve ever gotten.’ This story is told as sort of a memory of our narrator, and his favorite holiday memory in a time way back when. However, we’ve boiled that down even further and found that it’s about that family connection. It’s about a son and a dad and that connection. In a time in America where we need those most sincere, base-line family connections whether that is blood related or not - depending on your situation. I think that’s what we’re driving home with this production. It’s a chance to come to the theater with your given or chosen family, and just really cherish that we get to experience this all together. We get to be in the theatre – the lights will go down and the overture will start – and both actor and audience get to experience the magic of theater together as a family.
For tickets, please visit: baltimore.broadway.com/