An Alternative Christmas Story Finds Its Voice On Broadway

By Adam Hetrick
03 Dec 2012

Peter Billingsley
Photo by Monica Simoes

"It's this alternative Christmas," Paul says. "I think it's actually much closer to our reality of the actual holiday." Pasek adds, "My family didn't sit at home on Christmas, we were actually the ones sitting in the Chinese restaurant having that dinner!"

Penning a Broadway musical based on a well-known title has its appeal, especially for producers looking for box office gold, but the writers admit to being cautious. Paul confesses, "We were petrified! It's like taking this beloved thing and then someone saying, 'Okay, good luck, don't screw it up.'"

Billingsley is well aware of the challenge. He's been approached many times over the years for various adaptations of the film. "Fans are protective of the title and of the brand. Probably moreso than me," he reflects. "I don't think you want to remake the story. They did a pretty good job the first go-round."

He continues, "Ralphie was very much a dreamer in the film. Many of those fantasy sequences lend themselves so well to the big Broadway song and dance pieces. The musical takes all those great moments of excitement from the film and blows them out into larger levels. We have a leg lamp kick line!"


John Bolton and Erin Dilly in A Christmas Story, The Musical.
photo by Carol Rosegg

The big test for the songwriters was showcasing their work for the original Ralphie. "We were nervous, because you hear, 'The child star from the movie is going to come and give you his feedback,'" Pasek says. "We really didn't know what to expect. Then we met Peter. He's one of the smartest producers. He really understands story in a clear way."

Billingsley says the bold move to take a gamble on two relatively unknown writers still was easier than a triple-dog-dare. "There might have been a moment where we said, 'You know these guys are young,' but their energy and their point of view has helped give this piece a youthful point of view. Their songs are also sophisticated, and they're fun, and they're satisfying. At the end of the day it was an easy decision. It was so clear how bright of a future they were going to have. They're going to have a really long and prosperous career."

Pasek says, "You don't get that many opportunities to have shows in New York, especially when you're a young person. We feel incredibly lucky." The duo are counting down to unwrapping their holiday treat, Paul adds, "We are freaking out daily!"

(This feature appears in the December 2012 issue of Playbill magazine.)

Watch the exclusive Playbill Video visit with the "Bumpus Hounds," the canine stars of A Christmas Story, The Musical.