MCHS bringing A Christmas Story to the stage

by Stephen Dafoe

A Christmas Story is Morinville Community High School’s main show this year, running at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre Dec. 19 to 21.

MCHS teacher Vanessa King said part of the motivation for selecting the play was that the usual dates at the beginning of December were not available this year, prompting the run closer to Christmas.

“We had to go to the end of December, and it seemed only natural that if we have to go Dec. 19, 20, and 21, we should do a show that celebrates the season.”

But the dates are not the only thing different this year – the show is a departure from the norm as well.

“It’s such a different kind of show than we’ve done in a while,” King said. “It is so much more ensemble pieces. We have a cast of about 30 – we usually do – but normally we have small groups, and you can split up and work on more than one section. This show—it’s like all of the ensemble is in all of the songs. We have these massive rehearsals where 30 people need to get organized.”

King ran auditions the second week of September this year, and the cast and crew have been working on the show ever since.

Vocal coach Riley Quinn started with the music first, ensuring the cast know all the songs. Once those songs are in a comfortable place, the characterization and the blocking can begin.

“It’s rinse and repeat for every part of the show,” King said.

People familiar with the 1983 Bob Clark comedy will be familiar with the production, which is a Broadway take on the film.

“All of the music is by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the same duo that created the Greatest Showman, the new Alladin, La La Land, Dear Evan Hansen. They have really fantastic music in this show,” King said.

“It’s very different from the film. The film was pretty low key, low energy, and that sort of nostalgic narration. We have the nostalgic narration and these huge broadway-style numbers.”

Broadway numbers are not the only significant aspect of the upcoming show. While last year’s Sound of Music set could be hard to beat, King said they are planning a two-story house on a motorized platform that rotates for set changes. Donations from Craig’s Welding and Wolf Creek Building Supplies helped make that possible. King said the film’s famed leg lamp had been ordered.

King is looking forward to being able to show off the set, the cast and the show.

“We have such a strong cast this year,” King said “In the lead playing Ralphie is Morgan Christopherson, and she’s been in James and the Giant Peach and The Sound of Music. This [production] is her first time taking on a lead role, and she’s not disappointing. She’s so well prepared and works hard. She has a wonderful voice too. It’s so perfect for Ralphie.”

Maria Chvojka, who won female vocalist at the Cappies last year, has two significant solos in the show in her role as the mother.

“She’s trying to get that hold Doris Day 1940s mom thing down.”

Evan Charrois plays Frank, the “old man” in the script. “He’s a naturally comedic actor,” King said, adding the cast includes a large number of talented Grade 9 students peppered all the way through.

“Our ensemble had to be incredibly strong singers this year. We put a lot of our strongest singers in the ensemble.”

Tickets are $15 each and are available at Morinville Community High School and Sobeys Morinville.

“It’s a show for families for sure,” King said. “Your kids are going to like it. If you grew up loving the movie, it’s the same story – it’s just told with a little bit more energy.”

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