Although the 1983 movie A Christmas Story has become a holiday classic thanks to its annual 24-hour run on one of TBS's networks, fans of the beloved film may not realize it was once adapted into a musical. FOX tapped the Broadway show for their live broadcast musical event this year, which may have viewers wondering what Ralphie from A Christmas Story looks like now. A nationwide casting search replaced the memorable Peter Billingsley with 11-year-old Andy Walken, while Billingsley has shifted his career behind the camera in recent years.
The musical version of A Christmas Story had a short-lived run on Broadway in 2013, but its composers, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, are currently enjoying tons of acclaim for their recent hits Dear Evan Hansen and La La Land. So FOX dusted off the old show and adapted it for their live musical event this year, featuring an all-star cast and several brand new songs. The film was based on the semi-autobiographical short stories of writer and radio personality Jean Shepherd, who also narrated the film as Adult Ralphie. (Incidentally, a white-haired Matthew Broderick will be taking over the narrator role for FOX's live telecast.) Through a series of strung-together anecdotes, he tells the story of his most memorable childhood Christmas.
Billingsley adorably brought young Ralphie to life and it's hard to imagine the film being quite so charming without him. But fans of his 12-year-old self may not realize that Billingsley is actually lurking in the background of another holiday movie as an adult. Remember Ming Ming from Will Ferrell's 2003 comedy Elf? That's OK, neither do I, but the point is, the elf is played byPeter Billingsley! He's actually uncredited for his work in the role, which he tackled at age 32, after some fits and starts in his acting career. It a cute little wink to the canon of holiday movie classics. Here's a photo of him in character. (He's the elf on the right.)
Along with an impressive commercial acting career (he starred in over 120 ads as a kid!), Billingsley went on to do episodes of Who's the Boss?, Punky Brewster, and The Wonder Years. But since then, he's largely moved behind the scenes. In 2009, he directed Couples Retreat, his first feature, starring Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Faizon Love (also an Elf cast member!), Kristen Bell, Malin Akerman, Kristen Davis, and Kali Hawk. Billingsley also has a long list of producer credits to his name — in fact, he served as a consultant on A Christmas Story: The Musical when it first got off the ground back in 2010.
"A Christmas Story has always meant a lot to me personally," Billingsley told The Hollywood Reporter at the time. "I’m excited to bring this film to the stage because the story and the characters lend themselves so well to the world of musicals." And while he isn't involved with FOX's live telecast, he obviously played a crucial role in getting the musical made. "I am honored to be a part of this project and look forward to bringing the play to more stages," he was quoted as saying while it was in development. "Just think about the idea of a leg-lamp kickline!"
No word yet on whether a leg-lamp kickline will make it into the live telecast, but Maya Rudolph, Jane Krakowski, Ana Gasteyer, and Chris Diamantopoulos all bring their talents to the colorful cast. And although we don't know whether we can expect any special cameos, per se, I wouldn't count out some fun Easter eggs from the original movie somehow making the cut.
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