ORANGEVILLE – Most of us can vividly recall a Christmas as a child when we begged our parents for a special gift we wanted more than anything.
If lucky enough to receive said present, we were eternally grateful, never letting it out of our sight for months and continuing to use it long past the time we should have outgrown it.
Of course, it’s not until many years later, as an adult/parent, that one truly realizes the sacrifices, financial and otherwise, required to pull off the perfect Christmas gift.
In the end, that makes us appreciate the gift even more, despite the passage of time.
This unique amalgamation of gratitude and nostalgia is what drives A Christmas Story, on stage now at Theatre Orangeville.
It was adapted by Philip Grecian from the 1983 movie of the same name, as well as from the book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.
Directed by Theatre Orangeville’s own David Nairn, it relays the story of Ralphie Parker (played by Liam MacDonald), a 9-year-old boy growing up in the 1940s who dreams of owning an authentic Red Ryder BB gun.
Consumed by the idea the gun is the perfect gift, Ralphie launches an all-out campaign to convince everyone of his theory, but he is frustrated by unforeseen opposition from his parents (Jane Spence and Jeremy Lapalme), his teacher (Debbie Collins) and even Santa Claus.
Jamie Williams plays grown-up Ralph, who recalls his one special Christmas like it was yesterday. Williams’ narration is spot-on in terms of delivery and timing, but also in relaying the sentimentality of Ralph’s story. Spence and Lapalme have great chemistry as Ralphie’s parents.
Spence is particularly adept during heartfelt scenes (likely familiar to many in the audience) in which her character teaches her sons about right and wrong while simultaneously protecting them from their father’s punishment.
Lapalme is great as “the old man,” providing much of the production’s laughs with an endearing mixture of foul language, quickness to anger, adoration of eyesores and fatherly love that makes his character very relatable.
A major strength of the production is the contributions of local children – including Abigail Ayranto (as Helen), Wyatt Ellacott (Flick), Hayden Reynolds (bully Scut Farkas), Liam Sourtzis (Randy), Sarah Warren (Esther Jane) and Sophie Warren (Schwartz) – who display maturity and poise beyond their years.
Audiences will be blown away by Grand Valley’s Liam MacDonald, who’s already an established talent at the age of 13. A Theatre Orangeville regular, his performance is remarkably pure, devoid of any shortcomings that can often come with acting at such a young age.
For a couple hours he becomes Ralphie and the audience forgets he is just a kid with his own hopes and dreams this Christmas. He is truly remarkable.
Overall, A Christmas Story is a fine, family-friendly production full of nostalgic Christmas cheer. Of course it’s a classic holiday tale, but even if you’ve seen the film too many times to count, there is something palpably special about this iteration.
A Christmas Story plays five shows a week at Theatre Orangeville until Dec. 23. For tickets call 519-942-3423 or 1-800-424-1295 or visit theatreorangeville.ca.