Contributed by Roger Riddell
That famous line comes from A Christmas Story, the classic holiday film that many of us see enough times on Christmas day to recount as though it were scripture. The movie follows young Ralphie Parker’s quest for a Red Rider BB gun, and last summer Alex landed the coveted role of Ralphie in this November’s Actors Theatre production of the tale (Pamela Brown Auditorium, 584-1205, actorstheatre.org).
“We hadn’t even heard of the auditions, and one of his former elementary school teachers called and said he really ought to try out for this,” recalls Alex’s father, Tom Underwood.
Before securing the part, the boy — a student at Barret Traditional Middle School first introduced to acting when his mother took him to a Walden Theatre class four years ago — had to pass a series of three auditions. Director Sean Daniels narrowed a long list down to the final nine, who competed for the part at the Kentucky State Fair.
“Alex just had a great sense of comedic timing and heart, and really (had) that open and honest — but really smart — take on the world that Ralphie has,” Daniels says.
Alex is first to admit that he was more than a little nervous going into that final audition, when participants were required to tell the audience a joke and a personal story before delivering one of the script’s monologues — a description of the many layers of clothing a worrisome mother requires her children to wear before they walk to school during an Indiana winter. To nail down the look, he wore a pair of red thick-rimmed glasses given to him by a friend’s parents, who just happened to own Korrect Optical. “The night before the State Fair, we got the best ’30s- and ’40slooking Sunday clothes that would fit me,” Alex says. “My parents thought I looked a lot like Ralphie.”
Although the boy has seen the movie numerous times, his parents advised against watching it to prepare for the role because of several differences with the script. The play still contains the moments we all love, however, including Alex’s personal favorite: Ralphie’s unpleasant encounter with a department store Santa Claus. “Ralphie had a very strange childhood,” Alex says. “I like playing a kid who’s been through a lot in just one holiday season. It’s just a really strange list of events.”