By Jamie Bullins
Olde Glory Theatre, Wednesday, July 7, 2021, 7:00 pm.
I may not always be the most sympathic individual, at times probably a bit pessimistic and maybe even down right Scrooge-ish. Thanks be to the Olde Glory Theatre on Wednesday, for dropkicking me right out of that mindset. I mean, let’s start with the material. We all grew up on the film, know it backwards and forwards. So, you had me at A Christmas Story. ‘Nuff said.
I definitely want to note that this wasn’t just a show. We are just returning (sort of) to what we thought of as normal prior to the recent, slightly inconvenient, pandemic. So, I think people are just happy to be in the room with other people, sharing an experience. I would like to applaud Olde Glory for repurposing a building to create a performance space for the arts in a small community. There was a nice little hometown buzz in the room. And I felt welcome right off the bat. They sat me at a table with 2 people I had never met before, so, you are kinda forced to talk to them. A little odd for a theatre experience, right? At least it was for me. I usually scuttle to my seat and look at my cell phone until time for the performance. (Side note, it reminded me of a café back in my hometown. They only have 4-tops in the restaurant, and when you show up with less than 4 people, you sit with others to fill out the tables. Again, people you don’t know and are forced to interact with. It’s weird at first maybe, but you leave having an excellent conversation with people you hadn’t met before.) Last night, my tablemates were there to see friends of theirs they knew in the cast. Their friends were the Boggs family, who went all-in for the event. Three were in the cast and one worked on the sound and lights. It’s about community. We need that now more than ever. And the conversation continued during intermission. I didn’t take out my cell phone once during the break. Crazy, right?
This material wields nostalgia like a hammer. A pleasant, holly wrapped hammer that smells of hot chocolate, of course. Tugs right away and throughout at the old heart strings. When the flagpole for Flick’s unfortunate incident appears, the audience reacted audibly, they knew what was ahead. When the narrator (Adult Ralph, played with great charm by Rory Nolan) said the phrase “double dog dare”, another group gasp of collected recognition. And I won’t spoil it for you if you happen to be the one person that hasn’t seen the film, but the audience was way ahead of the Old Man (Justin Baldinger kills it) as he removed his “major award” from the crate. And once you see the Bumpus hounds, you will root for them to win the day. Just wait and see.
The ensemble successfully whisks us away to the story we all (again, except maybe for that one person) know so well. I didn’t feel as if anyone was actively attempting to mimic the performances from the film, they managed to embody these folks on their own. They’re pretty large characters throughout and I enjoyed meeting them again, this time live on stage. There’s the potential that, because we know the content so well, we could check out. It didn’t happen for me; I was with them and waiting for each next scene without a single instance of disconnect.
It’s physically a tight space to work with on the stage, especially with the kitchen, front room, Ralph’s bedroom, the schoolroom, the outdoor run, the car (side of the road), the Christmas tree lot, and the department store Santa to be considered. A challenge, but they made it through in a well-rehearsed and choreographed manner, and it was fun to watch.
During the curtain call, there were smiles all around. Not just the audience, but the cast as well. They were genuinely having fun. And with the age of many of the cast members, this material has to be relatively new to them, which hopefully passes this charming story on to future generations. The cast quickly runs around to join the audience on their way out of the theatre for a meet and greet at the close of the evening. Again, it’s about community.
Seward’s not that far. And on the night I was there the concessions were just $1 a piece. Can’t beat that. The rest of the evening performances, I believe there’s a ham dinner involved. And at the Sunday matinee, dessert. Sorry I missed those. But I am especially grateful to know where the Olde Glory is now.
I think right now especially, any feel-good event or evening should be earnestly sought after. So, get your tickets now. Don’t miss this one.
“…it was a good Christmas, because we had love, we had each other. And in the final accounting, that’s what it’s all about after all.”
If you go: You can catch A Christmas Story July 8, 9, 10 at 7:00 pm and July 11 at 2:00 pm. Tickets may be purchased online.
Jamie Bullins is on the faculty in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film at UNL, since the fall of 2017. He is an Educator, Scenographer, Director, and Playwright and has been at it for almost 30 years now.
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