The current show at the Walnut Street Theatre is A Christmas Story: The Musical. This musical is based on the 1983 film of the same name. The show incorporates all the scenes people remember from the movie such as the leg lamp, the pink bunny suit and the BB gun. I had the pleasure of speaking with Lyn Philistine and Christopher Sutton who portray the parents in this musical. They spoke with me about how the musical compares to the movie as well as how being married to each other in real life assists them in playing a married couple onstage.
Kelli Curtin: Could you tell me about A Christmas Story?
Lyn Philistine: It is like the movie, but it has more warmth. There is a lot of heart in this show. Everyone has that kind of Christmas that is depicted in the show, and I think reminiscing about that Christmas really gets to people. This show takes the audience on an emotional journey. I also love that there are iconic scenes that people will recognize. I love that I can hear the audience’s familiarity when I bring Randy’s snowsuit out onstage.
Christopher Sutton: There are those iconic scenes that people love to see: the flagpole, the BB gun, the leg lamp and when the furnace goes out. Audiences will recognize these familiar scenes. When it came out in the early 80s I remember realizing we always think of our parents as older. We never think of our parents as like 30 or 40, we always think of our parents as older when we are kids. The movie is cool because everyone can relate to certain parts of the movie. What is great about the show is that there is wonderful music involved, and it really captures the spirit of Christmas so well.
Kelli Curtin: How does the stage version compare to the movie?
Lyn Philistine: I think it is pretty close. If you are fans of the movie you will love the musical because it has all the iconic scenes you remember. Even if you are not a fan of the movie, I think audiences will love it because it is a show that has heart.
Christopher Sutton: We are both fans of the movie. There are things you don’t want to change. I think the show is truthful and honest while capturing the essence of the movie. And as an actor we try to put ourselves in the mindset of the 1940s to capture the spirit of the movie. The big difference is there is music, but it really captures the heart of the movie.
Kelli Curtin: Did you watch the movie in order to prepare for the show?
Lyn Philistine: We did watch the movie to get the feel for it.
Christopher Sutton: We have owned the movie for a long time. What is cool is the special features and there is a feature about the leg lamp guy. It was really interesting to watch.
Kelli Curtin: Why should audiences come see A Christmas Story?
Christopher Sutton: To relive happy and simpler times. We always think of those family members that are no longer with us at the holidays. It captures the innocence and a time when families all lived on the same block. It’s a show to have fun and celebrate the holidays. It is a wonderful story of this family’s love, and the times they went through together.
Lyn Philistine: At the end when Bill Van Horn [who plays Jean Shepherd, the narrator] comes out onstage, he is thinking back to the days when he was younger and his parents were still alive. This one scene really captures family and that idea of reliving happier and simpler times. It is a nice show just to escape the hustle of our daily lives for a few hours.
Kelli Curtin: Onstage you seem to have a strong family dynamic with the mother and father and the two boys. What is it like to work with these young actors?
Lyn Philistine: These boys remind us of our son. When I did this show previously on the tour, it was before we had our son Dylan - doing this show now, it is different. I look at the kids in the show differently. Having my own son now, I really understand how the mother feels about her family. Even off stage these young actors that play my children on stage treat Chris and I as parental figures. It feels strange we have taken on those roles, and knowing that is how these kids see us.
Christopher Sutton: These kids are all well trained and well behaved. The kids in this show are just happy to be here, and happy to be kids. They all seem to just have fun during the show. And when I watch Lyn with the kids in the show, it makes me think how she will be with Dylan, our son, when he gets to be that age.
Kelli Curtin: Do you feel that the fact that you are married to each other in real life helps or hinders your portrayal of a married couple onstage?
Christopher Sutton: It really helps us. It is wonderful to do this with my best friend. There is chemistry between us, and it is rare we get to play opposite each other onstage. This is our third show together at the Walnut. We did Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, I Love You, Your Perfect, Now Change, and now, A Christmas Story. When we are on stage together I try to watch out for her. Like the other night, we have a scene where the kids are eating potatoes, and some got on the floor, so I helped get them up for her onstage. Little ways like that I can look out for her.
Lyn Philistine: It definitely helps us. We know each other really well, and that chemistry comes across and really helps us onstage. It is nice we can look out for each other when we are on stage together.
Kelli Curtin: Why do you feel live theatre is important?
Lyn Philistine: In live theatre you come and see a show, and each show is a unique experience. Theatre for kids is so important. It allows kids to come into a theatre and a world where they learn about the world and feel safe. It helps self-esteem and it helps address bullying. Live theatre is so important to empower kids.
Christopher Sutton: Especially in this day and age, if people can come into an environment and just forget their troubles for a few hours, then we have done our job. We want to transport the audience to another place and time. People may come in and learn something about the world or even about themselves, and they can experience this within live theatre.
Photo Credit: Mark Garvin
Lyn Philistine and Christopher Sutton can be seen in A Christmas Story at the Walnut Street Theatre through January 10, 2016. For more information and tickets visit their website at www.walnutstreettheatre.org or call the box office at 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787.
Kelli Curtin is editor and writer for theatresensation.com. In addition, she is a contributor for the online site broadwayworld.com. Kelli is excited to share her passion about theatre and the Arts with her readers. Kelli can be found on Twitter, Facebook and on Instagram.