Photos  by: Joyce Goldshmid

PALO ALTO, CA -- On the night of November 9th the  outside weather was cold, but  inside the Lucie Stern Theatre, the atmosphere was warm.  It was the opening night of PALO ALTO PLAYERS "A CHRISTMAS STORY, The Musical," and the audience was lively.

The sights and sounds  familiar with Christmas were everywhere. The ushers and usherettes walked up and down the aisles of the theatre wearing  pointed  red and green felt hats like  those worn by  Santa's elves, in his toys' workshop in the North Pole.  And to create the Christmas' atmosphere,  Christmas Carols were heard in the piped music in the background. It felt so much like Christmas,  that the "Christmas' glow." was already reflected in the eyes of the children.

With the stage curtain still down,  adult  Ralphie, (JEAN SHEPHERD)  described as a "narrator" in the program, dressed in Winter clothes,  with a knitted  wool hat on his head and a scarf  wrapped around his neck, walked towards  the stage and standing in front of it, started telling the audience "A Christmas Story."


And as  "the narrator"  was talking,  the curtain went up and the audience found themselves staring at the inside  of the two story house, the Parker's  family's house, situated in Cleveland Street in the imaginary town of  Hammond Indiana.

We then meet the four members in the family, (Pictured above) "The Old Man," (MICHAEL RHONE)  as the father is called in the story, who is a hard working man, with little money, whose dream is to win one of those  "house prizes" in their local newspaper's  crosswords' puzzle  contest.  He needs to win one, because from their  furnace, to the house's  pipes, to the tires in his car. everything is falling apart.

But not his marriage. That is very stable. His wife (GWYNETH PRICE PANOS) is a stay-at-home mother. She is so determine to perform her "traditional "woman's role,"  that the writer of the story did not even bother to give her a name. She is just called  "mother."  The couple  has two sons:  Ralphie,   (JOSHUA PARECKI) on her right side in the photograph,  and  Randy (ANTONIO ELIAS) standing in the left corner looking up at the lamp.

The family may be described as "the average Middle Class American family from the 1940's" in which the father works, the children go to school and the mother stays home, and  sings "What a Mother does"  as she  prepares dinner, collects  toys, spread around the house, cleans the furniture and picks up clothes from the floor,

Their story begins in December and this year, Ralphie wants a rifle for this Christmas.  He (PARECKI) describes it perfectly in his  "Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun" song,  but, sadly, after trying all year to convince  his  parents to buy it for him, he concluded that they never will, because his mother  is convinced  that if he gets one, he is going to shoot his eye out. But determined to get his rifle for Christmas, the boy  is going to go to visit Santa at  toy's  store and tell  him that this year he only wants one toy: a  Red Ryder (r) Range Model Carbine Action BB gun,  In the meantime, he will continue longing for his rifle, day and night.


The  beloved holiday movie classic, also depicts the life in a town where  everybody  know each other, mothers call each other over the phone to report a kid who said a "bad" word,  children play together on the streets, school's "Bullies" bother the small children at school  and the most exciting thing for children to do in December is to go to HIGBEES toy's store and  look at the toys. before. After doing that, they visit SANTA CLAUS (JOEY McDANIEL) who in the musical is a  "manical department store Santa" who  sits on the top of a flat top pyramid in the second floor of the store. The pyramid has steps on its right side for children to climb to where Santa's is sitting down,  and a  Slide on its left side, which conveniently, allows Santa to push the kids away from him and as they fall on the floor, push them face down on the slide that brings them back to the first floor.

A CHRISTMAS STORY  the Musical is set in the year  l940's and, like the movie, chronicles the story of a young Ralphie Parker and his fixation on an official RED RIYDER (R) BB gun rifle.

The musical leaves the movie story intact,  but  adds  songs and dances. (Dance Captain & Assistant Choreographer ZENDREX  LLADO)  to the story. The best  dance on opening night, was the tap dance danced by Miss Shields, the teacher (JULIET GREEN) and her students. It  got  a long ovation from the audience,

The Children's cast with Ralphie defending the people with his rife
The children's cast with Ralphie defending the people with his rife

Another  perfectly synchronized  dance number on that night, was  the one danced by a group of children in "Ralphie to the Rescue"  The dance represents  Ralphie's "dream" in which he sees  himself  as RED RYDER,  defending the people of a town alone, armed with nothing but his  BB gun.

And if the dancing in the musical was  wonderful on that night, so was the singing.  All the voices have quality and the audience was able to  understand the Lyrics because they were well vocalized. As Music Director AMANDA KU  did an excellent job specially in the training of the singing voices of Ralphie (PARECKI)  and his brother  Randy(ANTONIO ELIAS)  who sang their songs in tune, projected their voices, and interpreted the lyrics of their songs.
As for the adults' singing, we need to mention  RHON for his comic interpretation of "The Genius on Cleveland Street." And  mother (PRICE PANOS)  for her singing and for her realistic acting in a role of a warm  loving mother.

Michael Rhone, Gwyneth Price Panos, Joshua Parecki and Antonio Elias in a scene from A Christmas Story, the Musical
Michael Rhone, Gwyneth Price Panos, Joshua Parecki and Antonio Elias in a scene from A Christmas Story, the Musical

Aside from the acting, music and dancing  we need to mention that other things that enhanced the performance were the creative genius of  costume designer NAOMI ARNST,  the scenic designs of  PATRICK KLEIN and all sound, lighting and properties designers  who added to its overall magic. We also need to congratulate every one else who participate in the pearformance, because with 27 actors, many of them children, one may expected "something" to go wrong" in the production, but on its opening night, "A CHRISTMAS STORY the Musical" production was seamless. It also managed to bring the the joy of Christmas early to Palo Alto.

The Birth of A Christmas Story

The plot for "A CHISTMAS STORY  the Musical"  was based on the screenplay of   the movie  A CHRISTMAS STORY  written by  LEIGH BROWN, BOB CLARK and humorous writer  JEAN  PARKER SHEPHERD (1921-1999).  The screenplay was  based in SHEPHERD's  collection of humorous semi-autobiographical short  stories  "In GOD we Trust and All  others pay Cash," which were originally published in Playboy magazine between the years 1964 and 1966. 

A few years later, after  reading  the western:  "Duel in the Snow" or  "Red Ryder   nails the Cleveland Street KidSHEPHERD  used  Red Ryder, the Cow Boy's  name, as  the Brand name of the rifle that Ralphie wants. 

Shortly before l983, during his WOR  Radio talk show,  SHEPHERD told his  radio audience about his yet unpublished new short story  "Flick's Tongue" (The school's  kid in the story who got his tongue  attached to a frozen pole). Among his listeners was Director BOB CLARK  who, at the time, was looking for a story for a new film. He  enjoyed SHEPHERD's story so much when he listened about it,  that he decided  to use it for a movie comedy, and  Direct it. So, in  l983, combining the stories published in  "In GOD we Trust and  All others  pay cash"'  and "Flick's Tongue'"  the movie  A CHRISTMAS  STORY was  Produced by RENE DUPONT of  Metro Goldwyn- Mayer, and  directed by BOB CLARK.

Based on the movie script, JOSEPH ROBINETTE,  coauthor of 55 published plays and musicals and Tony Award nominee and Drama Desk Award Nominee, wrote  the book  for A CHRISTMAS STORY THE MUSICAL and BENJ PASEK and JUSTIN PAUL  wrote the music and the lyrics for the version that we saw that night. It received a long standing ovation.

A CHRISTMAS STORY THE MUSICAL will play at the Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto  until November 24.  For tickets online go to or order them by phone at (650) 329-0891.