2017-11-15 / Front Page

‘A Christmas Story – The Musical’ brings together talent of all ages

By BILL LOCKWOOD

Children and adults rehearse a big number together for River Theater Co.’s production of “A Christmas Story – The Musical.” Miles Sheehan, front center, plays the child lead role of “Ralphie.” - BILL LOCKWOOD PHOTOChildren and adults rehearse a big number together for River Theater Co.’s production of “A Christmas Story – The Musical.” Miles Sheehan, front center, plays the child lead role of “Ralphie.” - BILL LOCKWOOD PHOTOCHARLESTOWN — In community theater there, “children’s” theaters often do productions with teenagers and children, while other organizations produce plays and musicals with principally adult casts. There are a minority of groups that combine the two, and River Theater Company of Charlestown, New Hampshire is one of them.

River Theater Co. has a tradition of providing participation by all ages in productions, together and separately. Last year’s holiday production was “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which had child actors depicting the famous characters from the cartoon “Peanuts.” This past spring, the Company presented the 1930s stage play “You Can’t Take it With You,” where all the roles were adults. In spring 2014, they presented the musical “Oliver!” with more than 30 children and half as many adults.

Coming Friday, Nov. 17 and Saturday, Nov. 18 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 19 at 1 p.m., they will present the New Hampshire premier of “A Christmas Story: The Musical” at the Claremont Opera House.

The story depicts the the Parker family of two adults and two children at Christmas time, when 9-year-old Ralphie pursues the Christmas gift of his dreams, an Official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. Rebuffed at every turn, Ralphie plots numerous schemes to achieve his goal.

Besides the leads, the River Theater production cast has 16 adults and eight children working together on the stage. The Broadway hit by Oscar and Tony winning songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (“La La Land,” “Dear Evan Hansen”) and book by Joseph Robinette is based on the classic comedy film of the same name. It includes a rather nasty Santa and his elves, pink bunny pajamas, the triple–dog dare to lick a freezing flagpole, and of course, the unforgettable leg lamp award. The music features lovely ballads as well as large ensemble numbers.

Director Mike Wright, a third-grade teacher by day, said he has wanted to direct the show since he saw it in New York in 2012. He says he didn’t like the movie, but when he saw the live performance, “I never stopped smiling through it the entire night.”

Miles Sheehan, who plays the lead child, Ralphie, said, “The play is amazing, and the people in it are very kind and nice to everybody.”

Miles also said, “I think working with adults is a learning experience in theater because they sometimes know more than kids do.”

Laura Carbonneau, who plays Ralphie’s mother, has worked in a supervisory role with children’s theater, and said, “It’s a magical experience to watch them grow.”

She also said the children in this show call her ‘mom, and I’m not really a mother. It’s kind of cute.”

Carbonneau and some of the other adults mentioned how much energy they see the children having. That includes John Luther, who plays the father, referred to in the script as only “the old man.”

“Their energy is really infectious,” he said.

Sharon Miller, in the adult chorus, says having children adds a lot to the show, and that she feels “we can’t fail because we’ve got the kid factor.”

Fellow chorus member Maria Ganio said, “It’s exciting. It makes things more fun.”

From the children’s point of view, Anthony Mitchell of the children’s chorus said it is his first musical, and that he is “loving this.” Equally enthused about being in this play are Jade Nadeau and her real-life brother Wesley, who plays Ralphie’s brother, Randy.

There are two parent–child sets in the cast as well. Ben Boyington is the narrator and his son Elias is in the adult chorus with Jennifer Gagnon, whose son Jean is in the children’s chorus. Also in the cast are Katie Walsh as the teacher, Kyle Hines in the children’s chorus and Joshua Delaney, Jacob Larousche, Sam Maskell, Wayatt Pearce, Caleigh Plunkett, Ruth Pratt, Kurt Russell, and Delores Schnarr in the adult chorus. Music director is Katja Kleyensteuber, and Sandra Graff is pianist, with choreography by Brianna Renner and Ashlee Rowley.

Advance tickets are available at www.rivertheater.org, or call the Claremont Opera House Box Office at (603) 542-4433, or visit one of their community ticket outlets: Jiffy Mart in Charlestown, Marro Home Center in Claremont, Joanie Joan’s Baked Goods Co. in Walpole, New Hampshire, or the Village Square Booksellers in Bellows Falls, Vermont. Tickets will also be available at the door. Ticket prices are $15 for adults, or $13 for children and seniors.


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