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Johnson County High School Players perform 'A Christmas Story'

By Lacy Hilliard
Tomahawk Writer, Photographer

All Ralphie Parker wanted for Christmas was an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass and this thing which tells time built right into the stock. Much to his dismay, the general response from those he told about his one Christmas wish was “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

“A Christmas Story” is the tale of young Ralphie Parker as narrated by his adult form and is based upon the book written by Jean Shepherd, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. The scenario is set in suburban Indiana in the late thirties or early forties and is centered on young Ralphie’s middle-class family. The movie version of the story, which was released in 1983, received such critical acclaim that every Christmas Eve, Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) hosts twenty-four hours of A Christmas Story.

The Johnson County High School Players presented three performances of “A Christmas Story” beginning on Friday, November 30, and wrapping up on Sunday, December 2. The JCHS adaptation was directed by Lisa Zeggert and co-directed by Sydney Crews. As with all performances borne of the mind of drama instructor, Lisa Zeggert, “A Christmas Story” was a fabulous illustration of the unlimited potential of Johnson County’s youth. Judging by the repertoire Zeggert possesses with her students, it’s easy to see how time and time again, she’s able to produce a visually and verbally stunning web of complexity in a relatively short period of time.
The role of young Ralphie Parker was played by Evan Lewis. As Lewis peered out from behind his horn rimmed glasses, he brought the resourceful but emotional Ralphie to life. Ryan Whitener narrated the story as the adult form of Ralphie. The connection between Lewis and Whitener was well done and the duo shone as bright as stars during the more dramatically hilarious moments of cowboy daydreams and the nasty business of overtaking the Wild West. The volume of narrative in the play was bulky and Whitener carried the load with the precision of an actor well beyond his years. Whitener delivered his role with passion and humor and projected his monologues with impressive tone and inflection. Lewis was a fine shadow of Ralphie Parkers younger self with the appropriate awkwardness of a young boy and a good portrayal of Ralphie’s unrivaled obsession for his most dire of needs; to become the owner of an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass and this thing which tells time built right into the stock.

Ralphie’s family is undoubtedly one of the most unforgettable aspects of A Christmas Story. Ralphie’s father or ‘The Old Man’ was played by David Eller. Ralphie’s ‘Old Man’ can usually be caught bursting through the front door while cursing the Bumpus hounds or in the boiler room fighting a ‘clinker’ through a haze of colorfully disguised profanity. Eller conveyed a clever version of ‘The Old Man’; carrying out a cacophony of enraged jabbering with excellent delivery. Hannah Wheeler was a comic delight in her representation of Randy; Ralphie’s unwieldy kid brother that has a certain knack for inconvenience. Wheeler never cracked a misplaced smile even when the role called for such foolishness as a never ending need to “go wee wee” and the inability to put his arms down while bundled up for a particularly frosty walk to school. Kelcey Graybeal played the role of Ralphie’s kind and loving but overworked and underapprec ated mother. Whether serving up a hearty helping of meatloaf and red cabbage or solving the ‘unsolvable’ crossword puzzle; Graybeal conveyed an exceptional portrayal of 1950’s mother.
Ralphie’s closest friends, Schwartz and Flick were acted by Ella Conder (Schwartz) and Anna Snyder (Flick). Conder and Snyder were a dynamic duo throughout scenarios like running from Scut Farkas (Kristen Branch), the resident schoolyard bully, and ‘triple dog dares’ that produced unfortunate outcomes like Flick’s tounge stuck to an icy metal pole. Both Conder and Snyder gave laugh-out-loud performances and did such a spectacular job of embodying the characteristics of mischievous boyhood that it was difficult to remember that the roles were acted by high school girls.
Judging by the caliber of the performances given in the Johnson County High School Players rendition of A Christmas Story, it was at times difficult to tell which members of the cast were main characters and which were playing supporting roles. Hannah Arnett played Ralphie’s teacher, Miss Shields and she dazzled audience members during the infamous Wicked Witch of the West scene by nailing the piercing cackle that is synonymous with classic witchery. The shill yell of Kristen Branch as bully Scut Farkas was sure to spark terror in the mind of any school age child. Holly Adams played Ester Jane Alberry; Ralphie’s classmate that suffered from a serious case of puppy love. Adams could be seen dreamily making her way around the schoolyard accompanied by best friend Helen Weathers, played by Madison Green. Timmy Bellamy played a cheapskate tree lot owner that proved to be no match for the King of all Cheapskates, ‘The Old Man.’ Sydney Crews also played a supporting role as another of Ralphie’s classmates.

The behind the scenes crew also played an important role in this production. The complex set, costumes, makeup, lighting, and sound illuminated the significant amount of work involved in the production long before the curtain ever went up. Aubri Cull and DJ Stanley worked at the marketing directors. The stage manager was Ashley Arnold. Hair, makeup, and costumes were provided by Karissa Cornett, Karley Kirsch, Julian Doss and Mollie Crowder. The stage crew was made up of Timmy Bellamy, Mollie Crowder, Haley Miller, Tayla Clark, and Jacob McGlamery. Sound and lights were orchestrated by Bob Morrison, Andy Zeggert, and Chase McGlamery. Lending a hand in set construction were Richard Walsh, BJ Lakatos, and Freddy Norris.

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