By Travis Sloat
The stage lights brighten and a group of children are revealed, circled around a boy named Flick. The children dare him, then double dog dare him, and finally triple dog dare him to stick his tongue to a pole.
Tommy Woodburn, who is playing Flick in the Muskogee Little Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Story,” didn’t have an actual pole to stick his tongue to in Monday night’s dress rehearsal, but that pole will be there starting tonight when the play opens.
Stan Cole, who is the narrator of the play, said he’s been a member of the MLT off and on for about 20 years now.
“A Christmas Story really captures Christmas from a kid’s perspective,” Cole said. “He really wants a certain toy, but in the end he realizes it’s about family. I also think the relationship between Ralphie and his father is a special connection.”
That connection certainly suffers during a scene in which Ralphie utters a curse word while helping his father change a tire. Jackson Spinks, who is playing the part of Ralphie, said the movie is one of his favorites.
“I like the role because I get to wear the pink bunny suit,” Spinks said. “I know I’m not supposed to smile when I wear it, but I really want to.”
The stage at the MLT has been transformed into several key backgrounds from the movie, including the kitchen, the living room, and the infamous Santa booth, where Ralphie gets a gentle push from Santa’s boot to help him down the slide.
Tommy Cummings, who is directing the performance, said the movie is obviously a classic, and he’s excited about directing the stage adaptation.
“You want to stay true to it (the movie),” said Cummings. “You want to pay homage to it, but with different cast members and the unique setting of a stage, it’s a different experience. I think the key is keeping the same fast pace the movie kept.”
That frenetic pace wasn’t a priority during the dress rehearsal, as cast members polished scenes to perfection and worked on timing and cues. It was plain to see they enjoyed the experience, and each wanted to give their best performance on opening night.
Brinton Foster, who is playing Scut Farkus, said he’s done five plays at MLT, and so far he likes being a bad guy the best.
“I like chasing them and bullying them,” Foster said. “And I don’t even mind getting beat up at the end.”
Foster, who is 10 and attends Tony Goetz, also said he’s made up his mind about his career choice.
“I’m going to be an actor when I grow up,” Foster said. “My goal is to be the next Jim Carrey or Adam Sandler. Those guys are hilarious.”
The play opens at 8 p.m. tonight and will be shown again Saturday at the same time. There will be a Sunday afternoon matinee at 2 p.m. before the final run on December 6, 7, and 8, all at 8 p.m.
Frank Godman, who plays “The Old Man,” said he got his start in acting by building stage designs in school.
“We got season tickets here about five years ago, and I saw they had a play which needed a lot of men,” said Godman. “I tried out, got a small part, and went from there.”
Godman works at Georgia Pacific, but he said his fellow employees don’t give him too much grief about being an actor.
“I think my kids tease me more about it,” he said. “It’s time consuming and challenging, but it is so much fun.”
Godman also has a secret he was reluctant to share.
“I finally saw the movie after I tried out for this part,” he admitted. “But I liked it.”
Spinks, 8, attends Creek Elementary, and said he wasn’t nervous at all about playing the lead role.
“I just pretend I’m not nervous,” he said. “But the one thing I never do is picture people in their underwear. That just creeps me out.”
If you go:
WHAT: Muskogee Little Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Story.”
WHEN: 8 p.m. tonight, Saturday and Dec. 6-8 and 2 p.m. Sunday.
WHERE: Muskogee Little Theatre, 325 E. Cincinnati St.
COST: $14 for adults, $10 for students.