Michael Harp, Philip Earl Johnson and More to Lead A CHRISTMAS STORY - THE MUSICAL at the Paramount This Winter

Families, set your holiday entertainment dials for excitement, because Chicago musical theater powerhouse, the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, is turning one of the most iconic holiday movies ever made into a larger-than-life musical blockbuster, November 25-January 3.

Director Nick Bowling will make his Paramount debut with A Christmas Story - The Musical, everyone's favorite holiday comedy about little Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder BB gun. Bowling has bubbled to the top of Chicago's musical theater scene with his recent string of hits including Porchlight's Sondheim on Sondheim ("4 stars" - Chicago Tribune), City of Angels and The King and I at Marriott and The History Boys at TimeLine Theatre, where he is Associate Artistic Director.

Today, Paramount Artistic Director Jim Corti announced the cast and production team for A Christmas Story on his blog, Tuesday's with Corti.

"Paramount's production stars Michael Harp as little Ralphie with his parents played by Danni Smith as his Mother, Michael Accardo as The Old Man and Philip Earl Johnson as the narrator, Jean. Of this cast of 31, 21 actors are making their Paramount debut directed by Nick Bowling, choreographed by Rhett Guter with musical director Tom Vendafreddo conducting the 17-member Paramount Orchestra playing the full, original Broadway orchestrations. This is an exceptional team of artists, designers and technicians. I am stoked!"

Thirteen-year-old Michael Harp recently played Billy's pal Michael in Billy Elliot at Drury Lane Oakbrook and Kurt in Lyric Opera of Chicago's The Sound of Music.

Danni Smith is a four-time Jeff Award winner, with recent credits including City of Angels at Marriott and Jesus Christ Superstar and Always Patsy Cline at Theo Ubique.

Michael Accardo most recently played Nathan Bloom in Drury Lane's Beaches and performed in The Full Monty at Drury Lane Water Tower.

Philip Earl Johnson was recently seen in Writers Theatre's Dance of Death and Old Glory and played Joe Pitt in the national tour of Angels in America, Parts I and II.

Brimming with dynamite performances and overflowing with comedy and heart, A Christmas Story - The Musical is the adaptation of the 1983 indie cult film which became a Broadway musical spectacular in 2012.

Who doesn't love nine-year-old Ralphie Parker, a typical boy growing up in 1940s Indiana? With Christmas right around the corner, Ralphie has his bespectacled sights set on one thing - a Red Ryder BB Gun. But at every turn, the young daydreamer hears those five words that are the bane of his existence: "You'll shoot your eye out."
The music is energetic, unforgettable and ranges from gentle ballads to full-on, show-stopping numbers. The imagery takes audiences back to an easier time we often long for, but the message remains the same: family, friendship, love - the holidays are nothing without them. Bring your family and celebrate the holidays with this beloved story of a department store Santa, a Leg Lamp, a snow suit and friends that will never leave your side - even if your tongue is stuck to a flag pole.

A Christmas Story begins previews November 25. Press opening is Sunday, November 29 at 5:30 p.m. Regular performances continue through January 3. Show times are Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Thursday at 7 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Note: There will be two certified sign interpreters translating all dialogue and lyrics into American Sign Language on Thursday, December 17 at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $41 to $56. The Paramount Theatre is located at 23 E. Galena Blvd., in the heart of downtown Aurora. For tickets and information, go to ParamountAurora.com call (630) 896-6666 or visit the Paramount box office Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and two hours prior to evening performances. A Christmas Story - The Musical is rated PG.

A Christmas Story - The Musical, based on the movie A Christmas Story and Jean Shepherd's novel In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash, features a book by Joseph Robinette, with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. After engagements at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre and the Chicago Theatre, A Christmas Story arrived on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in the fall of 2012. It opened to overwhelming critical acclaim, broke box office records and went on to receive three 2013 Tony Award nominations including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score, along with six Drama Desk nominations and two Outer Critics Circle nominations.

Paramount's production of A Christmas Story - The Musical also stars Ericka Mac as Miss Shields and 12 more of Chicago's top youth actors as Ralphie's friends, enemies and schoolmates: Blake Barnickel (Flick), Cody Bolithon (Sammy), Grier Burke (Suzy), Nick Dantes (Schwartz), Michael Di Leo (Roy), Samantha Marie Erne (Esther Jane), Ricky Falbo (Grover Dill), Eloise Lushina (Mary Beth), Tyler Martin (Scooter), Theo Moss (Randy), Peyton Shaffer (Nancy) and Reid Patrick Tomasson (Scut Farkus).

Ensemble members are Aubrey Adams, Audrey Billings, Jonathan Butler-Duplessis, Aaron Choi, Jason Grimm, Jillian Jocson, Mark David Kaplan, Matthew Keffer, Alanna Lovely, Erin McGrath, Jason Richards, Summer Smart, Holly Stauder and Dana Tretta.

Per usual, Paramount has tapped only the highest caliber talent in every aspect of production. In keeping with Paramount tradition, the 17-member Paramount Orchestra will play the full, original Broadway orchestrations for A Christmas Story, led by Music Director and Conductor Tom Vendafreddo, helming the orchestra for his fourth consecutive Paramount musical.

Paramount's production team also includes Rhett Guter, choreographer; Jeff Kmiec, sets; Sally Dolembo, costumes; Jesse Klug, lights; Michael Stanfill, media; Adam Rosenthal, sound; Katie Cordts, wigs and make-up; Sarah Ross, properties; and Matt Hawkins, fight choreography. Trent Stork is assistant director. Sara Gammage is Stage Manager. Amber Johnson is Assistant Stage Manager.

Nick Bowling (director) was the founding Artistic Director and is now Associate Artistic Director at TimeLine Theatre. He is the recipient of five Jeff Awards for Outstanding Direction (The History Boys, Fiorello!, This Happy Breed and The Crucible at TimeLine, Another Part Of The Forest at Eclipse Theatre) and six nominations for The Normal Heart, Blood And Gifts, The Farnsworth Invention, Hauptmann and The Lion In Winter (TimeLine) and Closer Than Ever (Porchlight Music Theatre). Other recent credits include TimeLine's Juno, 33 Variations and My Kind Of Town, Northwestern University's Cabaret, Porchlight Music Theatre's A Catered Affair, Writers Theatre's Bach At Leipzig, Shattered Globe's Time Of The Cuckoo, and City of Angels and The King and I at Marriott Theatre.

Tom Vendafreddo (music director/conductor) is a music director, conductor and actor with an eclectic career nationally and internationally. At the Paramount, he has music directed and conducted productions of In the Heights, Mary Poppins, The Who's Tommy, LES MISERABLES and Oklahoma. Other recent credits include On the Town and Godspell (Marriott Lincolnshire); Road Show and Shrek: The Musical (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); Sweet Charity (Writers Theatre); The Spitfire Grill (BoHo Theatre - Jeff Nomination for Music Direction); and Pump Boys and Dinettes (Metropolis Performing Arts Center). Select regional credits include RENT (San Diego Musical Theatre), Odyssey (Old Globe Theatre), Forever Plaid (Chestnut Fine Arts) and It's a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play (Cygnet Theatre). As a cabaret artist, Tom has performed in Chicago, New York, San Diego and Melbourne, Australia. In 2014, he became the Founding Artistic Director of the Chicago Artists Chorale, a choral ensemble comprised of working professionals in the Chicago theatre community. Vendafreddo received a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance and Music Education from Eastman School of Music and a Master of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre from San Diego State University. tomvendafreddo.com

To purchase subscriptions or single tickets, visit ParamountAurora.com, call 630.896.6666 or visit the Paramount Theatre box office, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in the heart of downtown Aurora.

The Paramount Theatre (ParamountAurora.com) is the center for performing arts, entertainment and arts education in Aurora, the second largest city in Illinois. Named "One of Chicago's Top 10 Attended Theatres" by the League of Chicago Theatres, the 1,888-seat Paramount, located in downtown Aurora at 23 E. Galena Blvd., is nationally renowned for the quality and caliber of its presentations, superb acoustics and historic beauty.

The Paramount opened on September 3, 1931. Designed by renowned theater architects C.W. and George L. Rapp, the theater captures a unique Venetian setting portrayed in the art deco influence of the 1930s. The first air-conditioned building outside of Chicago, the Paramount offered the public a variety of entertainment, including "talking pictures," vaudeville, concerts and circus performances for more than 40 years. In 1976, Aurora Civic Center Authority purchased the Paramount and closed the theater for restoration. The $1.5 million project restored the Paramount to its original grandeur. On April 29, 1978, the Paramount Arts Center opened, offering a variety of theatrical, musical, comedy, dance and family programming. In 2006, a 12,000-square-foot, two-story Grand Gallery lobby was added, with a new, state-of-the-art box office, café and art gallery.

Today, the Paramount self-produces its own Broadway Musical Series, presents an eclectic array of comedy, music, dance and family shows, and on most Mondays, screens a classic movie. The Paramount Theatre is one of three live performance venues programmed and managed by the Aurora Civic Center Authority (ACCA). ACCA also oversees the Paramount's "sister" stage, the intimate, 173-seat Copley Theatre located directly across the street from the Paramount at 8 E. Galena Blvd., as well as RiverEdge Park, downtown Aurora's summer outdoor concert venue. The Paramount Theatre continues to expand its artistic and institutional boundaries under the guidance of Tim Rater, President and CEO, Aurora Civic Center Authority; Jim Corti, Artistic Director, Paramount Theatre; a dedicated Board of Trustees and a devoted staff of live theater and music professionals.

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