Dan Lauria to rejoin ‘A Christmas Story’ musical

NEW YORK (AP) — Dan Lauria will once again lead the cast of the Tony Award-nominated musical based on the film “A Christmas Story” when it tours the Northeast this winter.

Producers on Wednesday announced that “The Wonder Years” veteran will return to narrate the zaniness when the musical plays The Bushnell in Hartford, Conn., from Nov. 12-17, and The Wang Theatre in Boston from Nov. 20-Dec. 8 and The Theater at Madison Square Garden from Dec. 11-29.

“I don’t know too many actors who can say, ‘I’ve played the Garden.’ I’m excited about it,” said Lauria by phone last week from Los Angeles where he had just played a round of golf. “It’s like being back by popular demand. If you can’t take that as an honor, find another profession.”

He will be joined by three other returning cast members from the Broadway production: John Bolton as The Old Man, Erin Dilly as Mother and Caroline O’Connor as Miss Shields. Ralphie will be played by Jake Lukas, who has appeared on Broadway in “Newsies.” The show made its debut last Christmas on Broadway.

Like the film, the musical features a menacing school bully, an annoying kid brother, an eccentric father, a lace-stocking-clad leg lamp, a bright pink bunny suit and a kid who gets his tongue stuck to a frozen flagpole during a triple-dog-dare. It’s co-produced by the film’s original Ralphie, Peter Billingsley.

The show has more than a dozen catchy songs written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul — titles include “Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun” and “A Major Award” — and a book by Joseph Robinette. It was nominated for three Tony Awards, including best musical, best book and best original score.

In the show, Lauria plays Jean Shepherd, the radio-TV personality whose semiautobiographical stories form the basis of “A Christmas Story.” He narrates the action and mostly stays on the outside of the action. “You know, I can’t sing a note,” he says with a laugh.

Lauria, who plays Jack Sullivan on the TBS sitcom “Sullivan & Sons,” made his Broadway debut in 2010 playing the ultra-focused and voluble football coach Vince Lombard in the play “Lombardi.” The transition is jarring for Lauria. “I went from ‘Lombardi’ where I was The Man — I was the guy — to ‘A Christmas Story’ where I am the least talented one there,” he said, laughing.

While he’s a newcomer to Broadway, the tour of “A Christmas Story” will represent Lauria’s 60th stage production. He’s a champion of new works and has performed them all over the country, looking with dismay at Broadway’s addiction to revivals. His motto is: “Dan does not do plays by old, dead white guys.”

One thing he’s most excited about is working with a fresh batch of talented kids. “They have no inhibitions. They’re the best actors,” he said. On Broadway, he got a big dressing room while the child actors were forced to double up in theirs, so he put in a coffee machine and made hot chocolate. “All the kids were hanging out in my room before the show and I’d tell them crazy stories. I’m looking forward to doing that again.”

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Online: http://www.AChristmasStoryTheMusical.com

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