Seventh Grader Who Penned Anti-Bullying Essay Earns Walk-On in A Christmas Story, The Musical
By Adam Hetrick
Brooklyn seventh grader Ahmed Shayef has won a walk-on role in the Broadway musical A Christmas Story after his essay about school bullying won the top prize in the Anti-Bullying Writing Competition sponsored by the production.
A Christmas Story, The Musical producers launched the campaign, which encouraged students to submit essays describing how school bullying affected their lives. The musical includes the song "When You're a Wimp," which takes a comedic look at a group of kids who are terrorized by the school bully, Scut Farkus.
Shayef is set to appear at the Dec. 27 evening performance at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. Second and third places winners Tatiana Mandis and Sophie Watwood won tickets to the production and a backstage tour. Runners-up included Aima Anwar, Nia Augustine, Sophia Baluyut, Gwyenth Bernier and Aubrienne, Billy Greenwood, Matthew Lubera, Jayda Medina, Alexis Pauli, Christina Stearns and Jocelyn Tang.
Featuring a score by Richard Rodgers Award-winning Dogfight songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and a book by Joseph Robinette, A Christmas Story, The Musical began previews Nov. 7 and will play a limited run through Dec. 30.
Tony-winning director John Rando (Urinetown) and Tony-nominated choreographer Warren Carlyle (Chaplin, Follies, An Evening With Hugh Jackman) staged the production.
Young actor Johnny Rabe makes his Broadway debut in the central role of Ralphie, the youngster who pines away for an "Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!" Peter Billingsley, who originated the role in the 1983 film, is among the producers of the musical. At certain performances, Joe West plays the role of Ralphie.
The cast also features Dan Lauria (Lombardi, "The Wonder Years") as Jean Shepherd, with John Bolton (Spamalot, Contact, Titanic) as The Old Man, Tony Award nominee Erin Dilly (Nice Work if You Can Get It, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) as Mother, Zac Ballard as little brother Randy, Caroline O'Connor (Chicago, "Moulin Rouge") as school teacher Miss Shields and Eddie Korbich (The Little Mermaid, The Drowsy Chaperone, Wicked) as Santa Claus.
The ensemble features Tia Altinay, John Babbo, Charissa Bertels, Grace Capeless, Zoe Considine, Andrew Cristi, Mathew deGuzman, Thay Floyd, George Franklin, Nick Gaswirth, Mark Ledbetter, Jose Luaces, Jack Mastrianni, Mara Newbery, Lindsay O'Neil, Sarah Min-Kyung Park, J.D. Rodriguez, Analise Scarpaci, Lara Seibert, Jeremy Shinder, Luke Spring, Beatrice Tulchin and Kirsten Wyatt.
According to producers, "In 1940's Indiana, a bespectacled boy named Ralphie has a big imagination and one wish for Christmas—a Red Ryder BB Gun. A kooky leg lamp, outrageous pink bunny pajamas, a cranky department store Santa, and a triple-dog-dare to lick a freezing flagpole are just a few of the obstacles that stand between Ralphie and his Christmas dream. A Christmas Story, The Musical is holiday entertainment that captures a simpler time in America with delicious wit and a heart of gold."
The production has scenic design by Walt Spangler; costume design by Elizabeth Hope Clancy; lighting design by Tony Award winner Howell Binkley; sound design by Ken Travis; wig design by Tom Watson; orchestrations by 2011 Tony nominee Larry Blank; musical supervision by Ian Eisendrath; dance arrangements by Glen Kelly; and vocal arrangements by composer Justin Paul.
The Broadway production is produced by Gerald Goehring, Roy Miller, Michael F. Mitri, Pat Flicker Addiss, Peter Billingsley, Timothy Laczynski, Mariano Tolentino, Louise H. Beard, Michael Filerman, Scott Hart, Alison Eckert, Bob Bartner, Michael Jenkins, Angela Milonas and Bradford W. Smith.
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