When the movie “A Christmas Story” came out in 1983, few went to see it in theaters but tens of millions have been watching it ever since.
Set in the 1940s in a fictional town in Indiana, the story about a boy named Ralphie and his one wish for Christmas — a Red Ryder carbine action BB gun — has a cult following.
Thirty years later, the tale is more popular than ever — and now featured on Broadway with Johnny Rabe playing the role of Ralphie.
Rabe grew up watching the original movie and said he never considered the possibility that he’d reprise the role one day.
“No,” he said. “Never thought I would be playing him, especially on Broadway. … It’s such a great honor to be playing such an iconic role.
“The thing about Ralphie is that everyone remembers when they were 9, 10, my age, and when you want something for Christmas, you do everything to get it. And that is why everyone relates to him [Ralphie],” Rabe said. “They love him.”
Like the movie, the musical takes the audience into Ralphie’s fantasies, including one in which he saves his family from bandits with that gun.
Peter Billingsley, who played Ralphie in the original film, is the show’s producer and an accomplished director.
He said “A Christmas Story” still held true for fans because it was one of Hollywood’s first real portrayals of a family.
“It wasn’t that idealized kind of 1950s version that we were given on TV, that a lot of us didn’t feel like that was our family,” Billingsley said. “I think that for so many families in the holidays, it’s the simplest things that can drive you most crazy -trying to get a tree, trying to navigate school, trying to get your son dressed to get out in the cold, wanting of that one gift that means the world to you. And so, it’s the commitment to that that I think makes the movie so relatable to so many people.”
He said the team behind the Broadway show had taken “delicate” care to not betray the fans lined up outside the theater. All of the movie’s iconic scenes, including the flagpole licking incident and the neighbor’s dogs, have been included.
“The movie has a lot of significance obviously in my life,” Billingsley said. “Most people have said, ‘That’s my dad. That’s my mom. That’s me.’”