Ferndale Reps 'A Christmas Story' is nostalgic holiday fun


By Beti Trauth

Beacon Correspondent

If you're wondering where to take your family for a real holiday treat, head to the Victorian Village of Ferndale's Repertory Theatre and see their lively production of everyone's all-time favorite Christmas comedy, "A Christmas Story."

Based on the real memories of popular novelist, Jean Shepherd, playwright Phillip Grecian adapted the material into this ironically delightful hit play that instantly became a comedic classic -- especially after it was made into a movie.

And, no matter how many times you've seen the film during its annual showings on television, it's always as irresistible as popcorn. You just can't help yourself.

You're hopelessly mesmerized every holiday season, as the characters you love take you back to a young Indiana boy's small town Christmas memories. And now, you can experience that wonderful story again -- on stage at the Ferndale Rep.

It takes place in a more innocent time, one that existed during the depression-era, when the most exciting gifts a kid could wish for were a Little Orphan Annie secret-decoder ring and a magnificent Red Ryder B.B. gun. That was the stuff that young Ralphie's dreams were made of, before they became his worst kid's nightmare.

A grown-up Ralph narrates the events, sharing his thoughts directly with the audience as he watches "himself," his childhood friends and neighbors, and his quirky family deal with the trials and tribulations of that particular, wacky holiday season. There's madcap mayhem awaiting Ralphie around each twist and turn of the plot (and his fantasies), underscored by barking hounds and his dad's inventive swearing.

More chaos includes: Ralphie's friend's tongue stuck to an icy pole on a dare; the delivery of his dad's contest prize, a lady's leg-lamp; his fierce fight with the neighborhood bully; and having his mouth washed out with soap.

There's also a disastrous visit to Santa Claus with his "damp" little brother, Randy; having to wear embarrassing pink bunny pajamas; breaking his glasses; and his eventual realization that sometimes it's better to not get what you wish for. ("You'll shoot your eye out!")

Nathan Emmons handles the key role of Narrator/Ralph with smooth skill; and, as his young alter-ego Ralphie, Steve Vergan is truly delightful.

Brian Morrison's portrayal of turkey-loving Dad/The Old Man is right on; so are the performances of Kristie Peifer as Ralphie's slightly ditzy Mother, and Aiden Vergan as the sweetly strange little Randy.

The featured ensemble of youngsters playing Ralphie's neighborhood pals and schoolmates are: Keelan Franklin (Flick); Andrew Cutler (Schwartz); Kate Haley (Scut); Haley Benbow (Esther Jane); and Brianna Schatz (Helen).

Meghan Walsh tries to keep them all in order as their spunky schoolteacher, Miss Shields; and Charlie Beck endures their lap-sitting wishes as a grouchy Santa Claus.

The cast is rounded out by school kids energetically played by Jeremy Peifer, Baileigh Sturdevant, Payton Hoff, Ariel Vergan, Megan Dixon, and Alicia Giaimo. There's also a special, unexpected cast-surprise in store for the audience during the company's curtain call. You'll love it!

Directed with obvious affection by Ginger Gene (assisted by Dianne Zuleger and Linda Maxwell), the show's clever scenic design is by Theotor Rodenti lighting design by Greta Stockwell; sound by Ian Schatz; and colorful costumes by Lori Knowles. Derek Howard operates the light board; Ben McBride is lighting and running crew; and Jeremy Webb stage manages.

FRT's holiday charmer, "A Christmas Story," continues its run on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. through Dec. 18.

Tickets are $16 general; $14 seniors and military; $12 kids. For details, call 786-5483. To make advance reservations, call 1-800-838-3006, or go to www.ferndale-rep.org.