I have many favorite Christmas stories. Sure, A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker are the perennial favorites at this time of the year, but, truth be told, there are many other Christmas stories that can be told at this time of year. There is the much loved Christmas classic The Gift of the Magi, the hilarious favoriteA Christmas Story (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”), and the heartwarming family tale It’s a Wonderful Life (“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings”) These great stories have made it to the stage in one form or another at some point, and so I’ll tell all of you about these stories’ relationship to the stage.
Its a Wonderful Life was originally a short story called “The Greatest Gift” written by Phillip Van Doren Stern. It’s a Wonderful Life centers around George Bailey, an All American do-gooder who is saved from suicide by his guardian angel named Clarence. The film version which came out in 1946 starred James Stewart as George Bailey and Donna Reed as George’s wife, Mary. As for stage versions, there have been several, including a touring version that visited Concord’s Capitol Center for the Arts earlier this month.
A Christmas Story tells the story of Ralphie Parker, a 9 year old growing up in 1950s Indiana who would like only one present for Christmas: a Red Ryder Beebe gun. To his dismay (and the audience’s amusement), all of the grown- ups share the same reaction to his Christmas wish: “You’ll shoot your eye out”. Based on the life of writer Jean Shepard, the film version came out in 1983 and starred Peter Billingsly as Ralphie Parker. There have been a few stage versions, including one that played at Portsmouth’s Seacoast Repertory Theater in 2005.
The Gift of the Magi started off as a short story written by O. Henry. It tells the tale of Jim and Della, a poor couple who, on Christmas Eve, each sell their most valuable possessions in order to buy a gift for each other. Their story is compared with the story of the Three Wise-Men in the bible. As for stage and film adaptions, there are undoubtedly plenty of both, though only one notable one that ties into New Hampshire: a one act version that played at The Leddy Center earlier in the holiday season.
There are several more Christmas stories which have been adapted for the stage, such as Miracle on 34th Street, Amahl and the Night Visitors, and even Merry Christmas Strega Nona. All of these have been hailed by critics and audiences alike in whatever form they have taken, be it book, stage or film adaptions. My views on these stories remain the same as for the ones above: give one of them the chance to become a perennial Christmas stage favorite. I’m sure that if someone talented enough to do their own stage take on any of these classics came along, the results would be nothing less than astounding.