I triple-dog dare you to find a TV viewer who hasn’t seen seasonal movie classic “A Christmas Story,” which has played repeatedly for years during 24-hour holiday marathons.
This year, the funny family tale will be available on both TBS and TNT on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, starting at 6 p.m. on Dec. 24.
So why would fans of the beloved 1983 flick — written by Jean Shepherd and starring Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon and Peter Billingsley — want to make a date with television’s musical remake, “A Christmas Story Live!”?
For starters, the pedigree of its creative team is impressive. Executive producer Marc Platt has many musical successes on his resume, including “La La Land” and last year’s hit TV musical “Grease Live!” on Fox.
The TV version’s composing team, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, are Tony winners who worked on Broadway’s “A Christmas Story” musical but may be best known for “City of Stars” from “La La Land,” which won best song at last year’s Academy Awards..
The trio’s latest collaboration, “A Christmas Story Live!” (7 p.m. Sunday on Fox) boasts lots of catchy songs, even more than the Broadway musical, not to mention a strong cast with great pipes.
One of New York’s finest, Matthew Broderick, is the narrator here. (Shepherd voiced the tale as the grown-up Ralphie in the original.)
Maya Rudolph, who plays Ralphie’s mom in the live TV version, has proven on “Saturday Night Live” and on many other TV shows and specials that she isn’t just funny but can belt a tune with the best of ’em.
Chris Diamantopoulos, another Broadway veteran, most recently in the musical “Waitress,” also has a mesmerizing voice, as does newcomer, Andy Walken, 11, of Seattle, who plays central character Ralphie, the family’s oldest boy who hopes against hope he’ll find a Red Ryder BB gun under the Christmas tree.
Although the live nostalgic production, like its motion picture predecessor, is set in the 1940s, a much more diverse cast reflects a modern sensibility.
The adorable JJ Batteast plays Ralphie’s best friend, Flick, whose tongue gets famously stuck to an icy flagpole. David Alan Grier is Santa, and Ken Jeong of “Dr. Ken” portrays both a Christmas tree salesman and a restaurant owner.
Platt, Pasek and Paul sat down with TV critics recently to share more reasons not to miss “A Christmas Story Live!”
Fun surprises that accompany live TV. “It’s going to take place outside. It’s going to take place inside. It’s going to take place in different environments,” Platt said.
“Weather will be a factor. We’ll play with the weather. And the same thing with live singing. It will be all live sung through. That’s not even a question. Some of the music, the orchestral music, will be pre-recorded, but every performance is completely live.”
Respectful of the original, but bigger and splashier. “It’s really our responsibility to make sure that we’re digging into the emotional moments. It’s really a dance that we’re always trying to do to figure out how we can make a moment larger than life and realize it and how musicals can make a moment bigger than it can be, you know, just in dialogue, and then figure out how to preserve the moments that you really want to see and that you’re anticipating,” Pasek said.
Iconic scenes enhanced by memorable songs, choreography. “ ‘You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out’ is a big, big production number that happens in the show. And it’s really exciting. It’s the culmination of Ralphie really feeling down and out. And it becomes a big number with tap-dancing kids, and it really is larger than life,” Pasek said.
“We also have ‘A Major Award,’ which becomes a big fantasy number with the dad. … In the Broadway show, there’s leg lamp kick lines that take place, and it becomes a really, really big moment, as is ‘Red Ryder Carbine BB Gun,’ when the boy is imagining what the gun will be in the window display at Higbee’s Department Store.”
A holiday party for the entire family. “(It’s) going to be a Christmas family event. All the things and all the ingredients that you all think about at Christmas, whether it’s lights and gifts and snow and things going wrong, are all going to occur live before your eyes,” Platt promised.
“So we will wink with the audience. We will play tricks with you on how we accomplish it. And you will always know that you are in a film, because it will be very cinematic. But we’ll always pull back and go, oh, my gosh. This is actually happening live before our eyes.”