'A Christmas Story' musical to go up in Chicago

June 29, 2011 (CHICAGO)

And you will be surprised who is producing the big project.

It's an iconic film and a favorite holiday tradition for many families. Now, A Christmas Story is coming to the stage as a musical.

Peter Billingsley is the producer. That's right; the original "Ralphie" has come full circle presenting the story with singing and dancing.

"Everyone who knows and loves the film will get all the moments they want with a plus one. People start to see it coming, and then there will be a musical number around the flagpole scene, and it will light up. And it is really taking all the moments that everyone knows, loves and remembers, but it's taking it to a new level. The musical format allows you to do so," Billingsley said.

In the years since he first starred as the be-speckled young Ralphie Parker, Billingsley has emerged as a well respected and successful member of the Hollywood community, producing such hits as Couples Retreat, The Breakup and the blockbuster Ironman series.

"I've been fortunate. I made a lot of films with Vince Vaughn, a Chicago hometown boy. We shot a lot of stuff here. It is really something that I kind of was getting out of acting and wanted to get behind the scenes and Bob Clark, the director of A Christmas Story was my mentor and encouraged me to get into editing, and I started producing films about 15 years ago," said Billingsley.

And now he's bringing this film classic to the live stage, specifically to the Chicago Theatre.

"I think Chicago has an enormous talent and great stage history. I have gotten a good chance to have worked here and made a lot of movies here. Love the talent in this city and love the city and the Midwest. That story was in Hammond, Indiana, which is really close to here. For a lot of reasons, it made sense to be here this year," the producer said.

That's why many young performers showed up to auditions, hoping for a chance to play a role in the musical. Many of the parts will go to local youngsters, and they are ready to for the spotlight.

"Well, at home, I like to play with my dogs and play little skits and stuff, so I'm pretty good at acting. I really like it. I enjoy it," said Zaria Temuru of Forest Park.

" I love acting, and I would like to be on Broadway, or in any show," said Shaniah Ramsey from Churubusco, Ind.

"I want to play Scott Farkas, the bully," said Justice Dunham of Plainfield.

The cast selected in Chicago will tour five cities before the show culminates with a huge holiday opening at the Chicago Theatre, where perhaps a new star will be born.

"It's music, dancing, singing, a lot of talents I don't have, didn't have in the movie," said Billingsley.

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