Songwriting team Benj Pasek and Justin Paul — the celebrated duo behind the music of Tony-winner Dear Evan Hansen and the Oscar-winning La La Land — discuss the making of A Christmas Story, The Musical.
How did you become involved with the musical version of A Christmas Story?
JP: Similar to how an actor auditions for a show, we were actually approached by the producers of A Christmas Story and asked to submit songs to “audition” in a way. We absolutely love the movie and were ecstatic when we were chosen to write the music for the production.
How did you go about adapting the story to be told with music?
BP: There was a story in place—a structure that already works. With this particular movie, it’s so loved by so many people. And knowing that you have to satisfy their expectations and allow them to hear those lines that they want to hear, sometimes that can be challenging. We wanted to honor people’s favorite parts of the film and enhance them for the musical stage without tampering with them too much.
JP: For example, one of the things we saw from the movie and from Jean Shepherd’s writings is Ralphie’s obsession with the Red Ryder® BB Gun, but we were able to really explore and expand on that through the song “Ralphie to the Rescue.” If Ralphie wanted to be a cowboy then we could make him into a cowboy fighting off Indians, bank robbers, and old style western villains in a six-minute dance number. The fantasy scenes in the movie were perfect for becoming musical numbers.
Were there any characters for which you particularly enjoyed writing?
JP: One thing we’re really proud of is that when it came to this project, we really felt like we wanted to invest a lot in the character of the Mother – she plays a more subtle part in the film. While we didn’t want to change very much, we felt that she was deserving of some really good material – she is a very special character to us. She is sort of the special engine that keeps the whole thing running.
BP: The Mother’s song “Just Like That” is truly one of our favorite moments in the show. At its core, A Christmas Story is about nostalgia and remembering your own childhood. In this song, we see a mother trying to capture that one moment as her kids are growing up too quickly. The is one of the moments in the musical that didn’t exist in the film, so it gave us the opportunity to explore the mother’s character and make her the sort of emotional anchor of the show.
A Christmas Story plays the Aronoff Center December 5-10, 2017 as part of the Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Cincinnati season presented by TriHealth. More information