"CHRISTMAS STORY LIVE!" — Fox, Sunday, Dec. 17, 8 p.m.
SALT LAKE CITY — The executive producer and composers of the Academy-Award nominated film “La La Land” are coming together again for a live musical television adaptation of the classic 1983 film “A Christmas Story.”
Premiering Sunday, Dec. 17, on Fox, Maya Rudolph (“Bridesmaids,” “Saturday Night Live”) will play Ralphie Parker's mother, Mrs. Parker, with Matthew Broderick (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “The Producers”) playing adult Ralphie Parker. The TV show will combine music from composers Benj Pasek's and Justin Paul's 2012 Broadway musical adaptation of “A Christmas Story” with the popular film.
Based on radio legend and humorist Jean Shepherd’s semi-autobiographical novel “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash,” the film version seems to play nonstop on TV during the holiday season — something executive producer Marc Platt and Pasek and Paul had to work around.
“The challenge of adapting something so beloved is to make sure that you are respectful of the original material,” Platt said in a conference call with reporters, “and that you’re delivering all the elements that people who love the film need to see to be satisfied … but you also want to deliver an experience that is unique that no one has ever experienced before.”
As a musical event, "A Christmas Story Live!" will be able to expand on well-known scenes from the movie, giving the audience further insight into the characters. For example, when Ralphie blames his friend Schwartz for teaching him a bad word, the film only shows Ralphie’s mom calling Schwartz’s mom. For the live TV event, there will be a scene where Ralphie will visit Schwartz’s house to apologize — and a musical number will ensue.
“What a televised event allows us to do is to create a new genre,” Platt said. “We take elements of the film, we take elements of the stage production and we combine them together.”
In addition to the music, Broderick as the adult Ralphie is another change from the film. While in the film adult Ralphie is simply a voiceover, in the musical he is a character walking around onstage, similar to the stage manager in “Our Town.” In the live television show, Broderick will also be onstage, talking to the camera, telling his story — something, Platt pointed out, he last did in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” a movie that came out in the same era as “A Christmas Story.”
Having previously worked on “Grease: Live!”, Platt knows how complex logistically it can be to film a live show. He said there will be 14 cameras at work, and figuring out how they will cut to different points of view without ever showing a cameraman onscreen requires choreography as intricate as any of the dance numbers audiences will see.
And just as in “Grease: Live!”, Platt said they will be involving the live studio audience in the production of “A Christmas Story Live!”, creating the feel of a live show from the start.
While Platt himself doesn't celebrate Christmas, he still appreciates “A Christmas Story” because of how it celebrates the holiday season.
“It’s a time of connectivity and tradition, whatever your traditions are,” he said. “It yields that feeling and that warmth I think all people yearn for and what makes ‘A Christmas Story’ universal, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, (you) recognize that family.”Comment on this story
He said something that makes “A Christmas Story” stand out is its lack of sentimentality even as it tells a humorous story of family that everyone can relate to. Platt calls the story “comfort food” in this complicated world we live in today.
“We want to satisfy the expectations of all those millions of people who love the film, and I think those expectations will be satisfied,” he said. “All the iconic moments are delivered in a very respectful way. … The music both embraces the humor and the warmth of the piece, and it really underscores all the elements that people love about the film, which is the family and the tradition of Christmas. … It’s charming, nostalgic, funny, warm and witty entertainment.”