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Ralphie and the rest of the Parkers take center stage in 'A Christmas Story'

| Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Wesley Heverly as Ralphie (from left), Nick Lenz as The Old Man, Savannah Bruno as Ralphie’s mother and Connor Parente as Randy in Stage Right's production of 'A Christmas Story.
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Wesley Heverly as Ralphie (from left), Nick Lenz as The Old Man, Savannah Bruno as Ralphie’s mother and Connor Parente as Randy in Stage Right's production of 'A Christmas Story.
Matthew Rush as The Old Man (from left), Mark Henne as Ralphie,  Marianne Bayard as Ralphie's mother, and Charlie Russell as Randy in The Theatre Factory's production of 'A Christmas Story.'
Submitted
Matthew Rush as The Old Man (from left), Mark Henne as Ralphie, Marianne Bayard as Ralphie's mother, and Charlie Russell as Randy in The Theatre Factory's production of 'A Christmas Story.'

It just wouldn't be December without a retelling — over and over again — of “A Christmas Story,” the beloved 1983 movie about a boy named Ralphie, whose only holiday wish is for a Red Ryder BB gun from Santa Claus.

The comedy written and narrated by Jean Shepherd takes place in the 1940s.

More than 40 million people are expected to tune in during TBS's annual “A Christmas Story” movie marathon, which starts at 8 p.m. Dec. 24 and repeat every two hours, until 8 p.m. Dec. 25, according to the cable network. A week earlier, the Broadway musical version of “A Christmas Story” will be performed live, from 7 to 11 p.m. Dec. 17 on Fox, starring Matthew Broderick as the narrator and grown-up Ralphie Parker and Maya Rudolph as Mrs. Parker.

And if that's still not enough of a good thing, two local theater companies will give audiences even more chances to watch the antics of Ralphie and his friends onstage in the musical version of “A Christmas Story.”

The Theatre Factory in Trafford will offer performances from Dec. 7 to 17, and Stage Right will perform the holiday favorite Dec. 8 to 10 at the Lamp Theatre in Irwin.

Stage Right

At Stage Right, Wesley Heverly, 11, of Greensburg will play Ralphie, with Savannah Bruno of Kiski as Ralphie's mother, Connor Parente of Irwin as his little brother, Randy, and Nick Lenz of Jeannette as The Old Man.

Heverly, a fifth-grader at Greensburg Salem's Nicely Elementary School, is thrilled for the opportunity to portray Ralphie, his mother, Ryann Heverly, says.

“ ‘The Christmas Story' is a family favorite in our household, which led to seeing the musical last Thanksgiving at the Benedum in Pittsburgh,” she says. “When Wesley heard Stage Right was including ‘A Christmas Story' as one of their professional shows, he quickly began to study the music with his voice teacher.”

Wesley says Ralphie is his dream role.

“I really like his songs and he gets to do the most fun stuff,” he says.

Tony Marino, who directs the show and serves as narrator, says the role of Ralphie is a challenging one, with music composed by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the Tony Award-winning team behind “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Heverly's acting credits with Stage Right include “Beauty and the Beast” (Chip), “Aladdin Jr. (Genie), “Tink Jr.” (Peter Pan) and “Lion King Jr.” (Young Simba). He also played Young Guido in “Nine” at Seton Hill University.

The Theatre Factory

Mark Henne, 11, of Fox Chapel, also is having fun in the role of Ralphie for the Theatre Factory's production of “A Christmas Story.”

“I love to watch this movie with my family and I thought it would be cool to actually be a part of it,” he says. “I really like to be goofy and take over the character of Ralphie when he acts like a cowboy. I love to make people laugh.”

The fifth-grade student at O'Hara Elementary School has performed with Duquesne University Red Masquers in an original play, “Rust,” by F.J. Hartland.

Catherine Kolos of Pittsburgh is directing “A Christmas Story” for the Theatre Factory. The cast also features Marianne Bayard as Ralphie's mother, Charlie Russell as Randy and Matthew Rush as The Old Man.

“There is something heightened in the air during the holiday season, and it is that feeling of anticipation and excitement that I'd like to bring to this beautiful piece of theater,” Kolos says.

This is her first time directing this show and her first time directing for the Theatre Factory, “but I can't think of a better collaboration,” she says. “Watching the movie is a holiday tradition in my family. Who wouldn't want to spend a few weeks bringing to life this fabulous, witty world that Jean Shepherd created?”

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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