DIVA TALK: Catching Up With Tony Nominee Erin Dilly, Star of A Christmas Story, The Musical

By Andrew Gans
09 Nov 2012

John Bolton, Zac Ballard, Johnny Rabe and Dilly with Pete and Lily
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Question: What's it been like working with the two dogs?
Dilly: [Laughs.] I'm so sad! I don't get to play with them! They're Lily and Pete, and only John does — John Bolton — because they want John to have the only significant connection to the dogs, since all the business is based around John on stage, so I just look longingly at them and want to kiss their slobbery faces because I'm a total dog freak. I've got two at home… Truly, the kids in our show, and the dogs… Again, "don't work with animals or children," but they will rightfully walk away with this show.

Question: Was there something appealing about doing this show since it's just a limited run?
Dilly: Oh, my gosh! It's right up a mother's alley! [Laughs.] I was like, "Yes!" What I've been doing in television is working episodically, which has worked. The gods have been good to me this year. I've been working episodically on Broadway. It's kind of nice! [Laughs.] It's such a warm, hilarious show. It's going to be a nice place to go to work over the holidays. Both my girls are excited to see it. They're excited to meet all the kids in the show, so the event of it doesn't make them feel, "Oh, Mommy's going to work." It makes them excited, too.

Question: Since it is A Christmas Story, what are some of your own holiday rituals?
Dilly: Traditions! Well, the big Buntrock tradition is that my husband — and it's something he created… Well, there's two things. There's two. One is Bob the Elf shows up on Dec. 1. He's the little elf that comes to our house. [Laughs.] He is sort of like Santa's spy — and based on the children's good behavior or lack thereof, he brings them a treat every day in December for Christmas. Sometimes, he's not there because they've been naughty or there's been a tantrum. But, the big tradition is we have this huge, huge Christmas Eve blowout party. It started very sweetly and simply about eight years ago when my husband just cooked for about six of our friends. And, the next year it became like 20. I think we topped out one year at about 65 on Christmas Eve, where he cooks like a madman. He's so happy. He cooks and cooks and cooks. I walk around and serve the drinks and tell stories and kiss the children. We basically open our doors to the entire neighborhood to come and just celebrate for a couple hours on Christmas Eve, and sometimes he takes his musket out at midnight and shoots it into the air. [Laughs.] It depends on how much wine my husband has had, but he is a Civil War re-enactor, and inevitably every Christmas Eve he claims, "Honey, somebody wanted to see my musket!" So he takes it out to the backyard and shoots it off.

Dilly in Follies with Joey Sorge, Lauren Ward and Richard Roland

Question: Looking back, do you have a favorite theatrical experience? Is there one that stands out in your mind?
Dilly: You know what remains, I think, one of my most amazing times was Follies — not the most recent Follies, but the first revival that Matthew Warchus directed — and, I think, it was in part because it was my Broadway debut, but also because the alchemy of people was so extraordinary. It was Blythe Danner and Judith Ivey and Kelli O'Hara and Richard Roland and Joey Sorge — people who still, to this day, remain dear and close friends of mine. I got to sit down and watch people like Treat [Williams] and Judith and Blythe do their stuff and Polly Bergen and Betty Garrett — God rest her soul. It was just sort of like a parade of people to learn from. And then we also just happened to absolutely fall in love. It was as positive of an experience I could have had, actually. But I don't know, this is going to be right there up there. I'm a big, sobbing idiot at rehearsals. I'm crying. We all cry at this show because it's surprisingly moving. There are moments of such musically profound truths that you go, "Ah!" And, it's not just sentimental. It's so wise. The storytelling, musically, is so wise. And, funny. These boys are funny.

Question: Is there a plan to put it on each season?
Dilly: The producers are so classy and so full of integrity and heart, I think their absolute intention is to maybe — not dissimilar to White Christmas — find the market for it each year. If it's just going to be a small tour next year and come back to Broadway in a bigger venue, and I do think it's the beginning of a long tradition. I think it's going to knock New York out. I really do because it's not like a cute holiday show. It's this beautiful, smart reinvention of something that's always meant so much to people, but now lands emotionally in a much more powerful place.

Question: Is there a chance that it can extend if it does prove to be a hit?
Dilly: Wouldn't that be lovely?! I mean, it's A Christmas Story. I watch it all the time anyway. I don't know, but let's put that in the universe right here and now. I would like that very much.

Question: Last question: Any other projects in the works or are you just focusing on this at the moment?
Dilly: You know what, this and the raising of Anna and Cady and Stephen. [Laughs.] I am full up at the inn, but really, really happy and very grateful.

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.

Visit AChristmasStorytheMusical.com.


Here's a look at A Christmas Story in rehearsal.