PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: A Christmas Story; Rifling Through Holiday Memories

By Harry Haun
20 Nov 2012

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A secret ingredient in the show is Raphie's kid-brother, Zac Ballard, who has the body language of a bean-bag, which is helpful when, overly bundled up in his thick snowsuit, he topples over and can't get up. At curtain call, he couldn't contain his opening-night ecstasy and continued to upstage one and all, jumping up and down, patting Santa's tummy, breaking ranks, rushing around, hugging his cast members.

"Zac," said Rando, "is an amazing, amazing little guy — so charming and so sweet and such a funny, funny young actor. He just had his tenth birthday the other day."

There is an even shorter, and younger, scene-stealer on that stage — an aptly named nine-year-old, Luke Spring, who sprang into choreographer Warren Carlyle's line of vision in the last Astaire Awards and was immediately put in the show and is now briefly showcased with a high-stepping speakeasy doxy (Caroline O'Connor, who, outside of Ralphie's hyperactive imagination, functions as his priggish schoolmarm).

"The kids are the stars of the show," Carlyle said, "and I love choreographing them. The idea always was to give them as much opportunity to shine as possible."

This raucous speakeasy riff — done to the aforementioned "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!" — echoes that 1976 moppets-as-mobsters movie, "Bugsy Malone," with Scott Baio and Jodie Foster — and is blithely dropped into the show out of nowhere.

"I think that's the advantage of developing a show out of town," reasoned Pasek on the basis of his first show out of town. "We're so lucky we got to develop it in Seattle and out of town on a five-city tour, and we got to really collaborate with John and Warren and sit down and talk about what was the ideal situation for a new number."

Caroline O'Connor
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Seconded the other songwriter: "We had another number in there, and it was working fine, but we really wanted to make it pop and spectacular for Broadway, and so we all got together and said, 'Ralphie has this vivid imagination. In the movie, he has these western hoedowns.' We wondered what else of that time frame would be so fun for kids. Well, they're near Chicago. It's a Chicago mob. It's a gangster scene, so it's all the kids being gangsters. All together, we came up with that idea."

O'Connor, in a torrid red dress, went to town on that number, turning on a dime from teacher to tart. "It's inspiring and tiring," she said of the sequence. "Those are the two words I use to try to keep up with those kids. They just knock it right out of the park every single time — and they are doing nine shows a week. It's thrilling."

She's especially happy songwriters Pasek and Paul added a little oomph to her Miss Shields characters. "I love the angle they've taken," she trilled. "In the film, she becomes a witch, but it's really nice that they've turned her into this kind of moll character so there's this nice chance to show off with a bit of a dance number."

O'Connor has showed off before—in Broadway's Chicago and the last movie named "Moulin Rouge" and as Ethel Merman to Kevin Kline's Cole Porter in "Delovely."