Zionsville is well represented in the premiere production of “A Christmas Story: The Musical” now on stage at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre.
Set in the 1940s in the fictional town of Hohman, Indiana, “A Christmas Story: The Musical” follows 9-year-old Ralphie Parker and his quest for the Holy Grail of Christmas gifts — an Official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. Rebuffed at every turn, Ralphie plots numerous schemes to achieve his desperate desire for the coveted BB gun.
Ben Kister, a seventh-grader at Zionsville West Middle School, plays the lead role of Ralphie in his debut at the dinner theater.
“When I first discovered the musical, it was immediately one of my favorites and it became my dream to be in it one day,” Kister said. “I like how they stayed true to the movie, and I love the music because I am a fan of (Benj) Pasek and (Justin) Paul.”
The 12-year-old’s love of music started at home.
“My whole family sings. My dad is my choir director at school, and my mom is my voice teacher and vocal directed many of the musicals I’ve been in.”
“This (is) my 12th musical,” he noted. “My favorite roles I’ve played have been Michael Banks in Mary Poppins at Carmel Civic and Young Simba in The Lion King with Christian Youth Theatre.”
“I like the excitement of live theater because it’s fun to get the audience’s reaction.”
Playing Ralphie’s nemesis, Scut Farkus, is his fellow student from Zionsville West Middle School, Austin Lizama, who is also making his Beef & Boards debut.
“I have always wanted to pursue acting, so when I caught wind of the fact that there would be auditions for ‘A Christmas Story’ at Beef & Boards, a classic movie I used to love to watch, I couldn’t ignore it,” Lizama said. ”I knew the boy parts would all be fantastic, but as time passed and I grew taller I became particularly fond of the idea of being the school bully, Scut Farkus.”
He said he considers the show relatable. “Although my school doesn’t really have a well-known bully, I can definitely picture it being a real thing. School isn’t always the easiest, you don’t always get what you want for Christmas. Sometimes it feels like everything is out to get you, but it’s also true that everything will work out in the end, one way or another.”
While Lizama said his performing experience prior to this role has mostly been limited to school productions, he did play Young Dakota in “As We Begin,” a short film by Pigasus Pictures, which won the 2018 Project Pigasus, an Indiana high school screenwriting competition. The film premiered over the summer at the Indy Shorts Film Festival, presented by Heartland Film.
Lizama also enjoys writing scripts and acting in the local SullivanMunce Ghost Walk, playing such roles as James Whitcomb Riley, Beauregard Dale, and young Abraham Lincoln.
Grover Dill, the toady to the bully, is played by Union Elementary fourth-grader Dylan Acquaviva. His reason for wanting to be in “A Christmas Story: The Musical” is simple: “I like acting.”
While the 9-year-old is making his Beef & Boards debut, he has been seen at Hendricks Civic Theater in the children’s choir of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” as Young Shrek and in the ensemble of “Shrek The Musical,” and “Edmund in Narnia.” He’s also performed in “James and the Giant Peach” and “Shrek The Musical at Jr. Civic Theater.”
“I like the thrill of being on stage,” Acquaviva said. “My favorite thing so far (about being in A Christmas Story) is making new friends.
All this experience is helping him on the path to his dream career.
“I would like to be an actor when I grow up.”
No stranger to the Beef & Boards stage, Claire Kauffman returns after most recently playing the title role in “Annie” in 2018 – a role she also played at Zionsville Middle School as a fifth-grader that year. This is Claire’s third production at Beef & Boards, having made her debut in the children’s choir of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in 2017.
“Christmas is my favorite holiday and I have never participated in a holiday show at Beef and Boards before,” she noted. “I was interested to see what ‘A Christmas Story’ would be like, for I was not very familiar with it and it’s fun to learn new material.
“My favorite part about ‘A Christmas Story’ is getting to perform lots of fun numbers and playing a student along side Ralphie – the main character in this musical!”
Now 13, Kauffnab has been performing for over half her life.
“I like being able to tell a story to kids and adults, and put smiles on peoples faces,” she remarked. “I love being able to be in front of an audiences and do what I love!”
And the Zionsville Middle School seventh-grader looks forward to making a career out of all her early experience.
“When I grow up I would like to do something in the entertainment industry in musical theater or with acting.”
Claire is the daughter of Scott and Kim Kauffman, Zionsville.
“A Christmas Story: The Musical” is rated PG and is on stage for 44 performances through Dec. 31. Tickets range from $45 to $70 ($89 for all seats for the New Year’s Eve Celebration), and include Chef Odell Ward’s holiday buffet, fruit & salad bar, unlimited coffee, tea, and lemonade.
For reservations and more information, visit beefandboards.com or call the box office at 317-872-9664 anytime between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays.
“A Christmas Story” is presented in partnership with the Indiana Historical Society, presenting its Festival of Trees through Jan. 4 at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, 450 W. Ohio St., Indianapolis. The holiday exhibit features 92 elaborately themed trees and special experiences including a replica of the living room from the film “A Christmas Story.” For details, visit https://indianahistory.org/events/festival-of-trees.