by Jose Luaces
Making my Broadway debut with A Christmas Story The Musical and then relearning and adapting it for a live telecast five years later was a magical experience. Working with a different creative team on the same material and seeing the differences first hand was absolutely fascinating. This was my first big TV gig and there was a definite learning curve.
1. ”Oh Fudge”
Where is front? It’s everywhere! In theatre you create pictures based on where the audience is, generally proscenium. For film it is a whole different ball game. The camera can be anywhere and change moment to moment how you look at the picture you created. Our incredible choreographer, Zach Woodlee, would film every section of choreography with his iPhone during rehearsals from the angles he wanted. He would create this movement with all the angles in mind already, it was incredible to watch him work. Later on in the process, he would collaborate with the director of photography, literally pulling and pushing him through the numbers as he filmed. The Director would then orchestrate a cameraman ballet to capture all the shots that were decided on. There were so many moving parts, and since it was live, we couldn’t just cut and retake. It really was one of the most collaborative environments I have ever worked in.
2. “Your house could be invaded by raccoons”
Our dressing room was invaded by raccoons, literally! We had been seeing this family of raccoons from time to time on the Warner Brothers lot and thought nothing of it. Then came the day of the actual telecast. The adult ensemble had dropped off our bags in our holding area, which was the Gilmore Girls house and gone to hair and makeup. Since there was fake snow all over the place, a corn starch and a paper product of some sort; when we got back to the holding area we saw perfectly marked raccoon tracks all over the couches and floor. Luckily they didn’t make an appearance during the show. Working outside also presented other challenges as a singer. We could literally smell the terrible fires that were about 30 minutes away from us. There was soot in the air that we were breathing in. That, along with the fake cornstarch snow that would blow in our faces, made it difficult to breathe, let alone run around and sing. We found ourselves covering up with face masks and scarves as much as possible while rehearsing. The black and white colors that I would discover after blowing my nose created a veritable work of art on the canvas of my kleenex.
3. “You only get one shot”
On Broadway, by the time we got to opening we knew that show inside and out and we knew we had several months to run it. In the telecast, there is so much pressure to get things perfect because you really only have one shot. Film is forever so if something goes wrong it is immortalized and this scared me. The smallest little things going awry seem like the worst things that have ever happened in the world. There is a lot more pressure to get things perfect in the telecast yet not really a lot of time to perfect them since things change so quickly from day to day. I had a couple moments where things didn't go exactly as planned and since you never know if the camera is on you, you just have to pray that these moments didn't get captured. For example, in the Hanukkah number, there was a mishap with the candles creating the Hanukkah menorah outside the house. We were worried sick because the stakes were so high. When we finally watched the show a day later we realized because of the camera angles you couldn’t tell at all. We breathed a sigh of relief.
4. “You'll shoot your eye out”
Imagine doing a theatrical show except your dressing room is at another theatre a couple blocks away. A Christmas Story Live was like running the NYC marathon, in winter coats, in 70-something degree weather. After “Market for a Miracle,” the adult ensemble literally ran the length of 3 city blocks while throwing off clothes getting ready for “Sticky Situation.” No time for modesty. At other points in the telecast, you had to run across the street to not get caught by a camera while avoiding cars that were driving around. It was actually fun, like playing the most epic game of running charades on an icy obstacle course.
5. “Who could ask for more, A Christmas Story”
One of the most magical things about A Christmas Story the Musical is that, while the Broadway and the Telecast were completely different beasts, as a member of the adult ensemble you become a family. Towards the end of the telecast, you are on such a time crunch that you really rely on fellow ensemble members to make things work. We would clean numbers on our own, solve problems, and make suggestions to each other. You really had to check your ego at the door and go with it. Every single one of those performers, both Broadway and the telecast, are incredible human beings with a joyful, “yes and” kind of spirit. Maybe it's the show, maybe it's casting, or maybe it's the creatives and the process, but I have met some of the greatest people in my life because of this show and for that I am #grateful.