Breckenridge Backstage Theatre tells ‘A Christmas Story’ in a familiar — yet new — light
Stage production of iconic movie runs now through Dec. 30
An important wintertime lesson is to not lick metal poles in freezing weather. Ralphie Parker and friends learned that the hard way in the iconic 1983 movie “A Christmas Story.” The film is an adaptation of Jean Shepherd’s anecdotes from “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash,” and the stage adaptation is currently underway once again at the Breckenridge Theater.
While the story isn’t foreign to the Summit County community — or the public at large with seasonal marathons and a 2022 sequel on HBO Max — this time around director Jacqueline Stone is blending the old and new.
The new producing artistic director is using the 1930s, the era of 9-year-old Ralphie, as a jumping off point for modern touches. There is still the signature pink bunny suit, Red Ryder BB gun and leg lamp, yet Stone is also playing with language and being fresh with the costumes. Additionally, the play ends with actors leading the whole audience in a holiday singalong featuring Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs.
“Some of the vision for this particular production of the show was to really try and retain the spirit of the original story that people know and love from the 1980s movie,” Stone said. “But we also wanted to ensure that the story had accessibility for a modern audience today.”
Stone is also incorporating a diverse cast in terms of both gender and race. The ensemble is made up of four adult performers and seven children ranging in ages from 7 to 14.
“We’re in a situation where we get to introduce a new generation to this great, beloved classic, and within that, I think there are some fun things we get to do because theater is not static,” Stone said. “Theater is not a movie in the can that can never change.”
In the film, an adult Ralph narrates his childhood with a voiceover. On the stage, however, Adam Lamb physically embodies the character and moves around. Stone said he acts as an emcee for the evening and a guide for audience, even though his memory may not be the most reliable.
A family show
One noticeable departure with Stone’s version is the use of Spanish in the dialogue. Puerto Rican Astrid Colon-Tirado plays the matriarch and sometimes tells Ralphie, played by Jacob L. Johnson, “te vas a sacar un ojo” — that he’ll shoot his eye out from the BB gun he yearns for.
The two Frisco residents also happen to be mother and son in real life.
What: ‘A Christmas Story’
When: Now through Dec. 30
Where: Breckenridge Theater, 121 S. Ridge St., Breckenridge
Cost: Tickets range from $20 to $40 for adults. Visit BackstageTheatre.org to purchase.
Johnson, who is 9 years old just like Ralphie, fell in love with acting after performing in a skit with the Keystone Science School. He then went on to perform in junior productions with Lake Dillon Theatre Co. like “Heroes & Villains,” “The Jungle Book” and “Seussical.” He recently performed as Fletcher Blake in “Freaky Friday” and Reverend Shaw in “Footloose.” His first performance in a non-junior theater production was in the ensemble for Backstage’s “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
“I just love doing it with my mom,” Johnson said. “She’s so supportive and nice and makes me not have a nervous breakdown on stage.”
Johnson is also multilingual like his mother. Born in the United Kingdom, he spent first few years of his life in Italy and had a nanny from Brazil, so by age 2 he spoke Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and English.
Colon-Tirado’s interest came from watching her oldest daughter doing it after school, and she wanted a more participatory role than sitting in lobby with other parents. A retired aerospace engineer from Texas, their family moved to Summit County after falling in love with the area during her husband’s coast-to-coast bike trip two years ago.
Colon-Tirado currently works as medical interpreter and does reiki therapy at Shaw Cancer Center. A spur-of-the-moment decision found her auditioning and getting cast in the ensemble for “Peter and the Starcatcher.” Getting cast in “A Christmas Story” was a happy accident.
By working together, the pair helps each other rehearse off stage and strengthen the realistic connection between characters on stage. Even if Colon-Tirado wasn’t cast, she said she’d still be involved in some way, such as fixing costumes or other volunteer work.
“It’s a joy for me to see him grow and develop right there in front of my eyes,” Colon-Tirado said.
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