DIVA TALK: Catching Up With A Christmas Story, The Musical Star Caroline O'Connor

By Andrew Gans
07 Dec 2012

O'Connor in A Christmas Story, The Musical.
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Question: The night I saw it, you stopped the show with that number. What's it like for you doing that big number each night?
O'Connor: It's incredible, you know. I [remember] when they called me, actually — when I was speaking to them on the phone in Milwaukee — saying, "This number's great. It's really great, I promise you. It's wonderful." And, they're talking about it, and you think, "Maybe they're just excited," but actually it is. It's one of those numbers, I swear, every show it gets this incredible response. I mean, it's a fantastic number. It's wonderful to sing and to dance to. And, I haven't tap danced since 1984! [Laughs.] In Me and My Girl… I'm so glad that I had learned to tap because it just shows you these other things that you can do sometimes, many years later, come in handy. And so, when I was in Milwaukee, I asked the prop guy to give me a tap board, and I started practicing before I arrived for rehearsals here. But it is — it's really wonderful to be on stage every night and get that response, especially here in New York with a brand-new show. And, I'm so proud. I'm so relieved that it's everything that they sort of hoped it would be, and I just love it. And, I love performing with those kids. They're just something else!

Question: I know it's limited, but is there any talk of extending at this point?
O'Connor: I don't think there is any chance of that, actually, because there's another show that's coming in, so that's it. We finish on [Dec. 30], and I've been told, even from the management now, they said, "Look, if you're looking for tickets, the closer it gets to Christmas, it's getting really, really tight" because the show is doing really well. It's a wonderful response — every performance. Isn't that lovely? Because it's so iconic, that movie, you think, "Oh, would you dare turn it into a musical?" And, I just think it works brilliantly. The music that those guys have written is so appropriate for every number. I just love it. I sit in the dressing room — because I'm not on stage all the time — and I just really enjoy the music. It's very clever, and it's perfect for a children's story.

Johnny Rabe as Ralphie
photo by Carol Rosegg

Question: The audience that I was in seemed very familiar with the movie, and it was fun to hear them react even before something happens. They know what's coming.
O'Connor: [Laughs.] Exactly! Night after night, they see that box come on, or they know when [Ralphie] pulls out that bunny suit, and I think to myself, "How incredible!" It sort of reminds me of something like The Rocky Horror Show, where they know what's coming, and they get so excited. I suppose there is a whole new generation now who are going to get to know that film. What I think is really interesting is you look out into the house, and there are a lot of adults. It's not just about kids coming to see the show. Obviously, it's adults who are reliving their childhood.

Question: You seem to work all over, and sometimes that's difficult, in terms of Equity. How does that work for you?
O'Connor: Well, the thing is I have an American Green Card. I live here as much as I can. I mean, I try to be here as long and as much as I can, but, of course, my career is sort of international, really. I get offered work in Europe a lot because I've spent a lot of time there also and in Australia. So I suppose I'm in a very fortunate position to be able to do that because I just love working. I suppose I'm the epitome of the old-fashioned version of the word gypsy. I tend to be that person who just works where I'm drawn to work all over. And, I'm very fortunate that I'm able to do that because I grew up in Australia, and I was born in England… I look at some opera singers — I'm not saying that I'm an opera singer, [but] I'm comparing my career to where you have to travel all around the world to do that. I really love that because I learn so much all the time when I'm traveling. I come here, and I'm working around people and all of a sudden I'm inspired again, and I'm catching up on everything that's going on.

I could be here for some time because, fingers crossed, if Prince of Broadway gets the green light, they're talking about it possibly opening this coming August. We did a workshop during rehearsals. I worked with Hal Prince and Susan Stroman on that, and — I don't know if you know about that — but we did two presentations at the Westside Theatre, and that was amazing. That's the first time I'd worked with Susan Stroman and Hal Prince, and, oh, it's just heaven on a stick. It really was. It was just wonderful…