stage spotlight T

by tony reverditto


San Diego Musical Theatre Brings The Classic 1983 Movie to Hilarious Life on Stage This Month

his Christmas tale based on the humorous writings of Jean Shepherd revolves around 9-year-old Ralphie Parker, who wants only one thing for Christmas: an official Red Ryder Range Model Carbine BB Gun. All of the naysayers only fuel his mission to convince all the

necessary players— from his doting mother to his straitlaced teacher and even Santa Claus—that he needs that BB gun for the protection of his loved ones. Little Ralphie’s vivid imagination in the musical version of the script conjures up several show-stopping numbers, such as “Ralphie to The Rescue” in which he defeats every foe a young boy can think of (robbers, mustache twirling villains and the school bully), to a thrilling tap routine. Will his Christmas wish come true? San Diego theatre veteran Steve Gunderson portrays The Narrator, who is

actually Ralphie all grown up reflecting back on his life and conveying his plight. Steve, not Ralphie, grew up in San Diego, lived in New York for most of the 1980s and ‘90s, and now divides his time between San Diego (his “theatre home base”) and Los Angeles, where he shares a home with his husband. He co-wrote and starred in off-Broadway’sSuds, which went on to have dozens of productions worldwide, including San Diego at The Old Globe, San Diego Repertory Theatre, New Village Arts and Coronado Playhouse. With Kathy Najimy, Gunderson created off-Broadway’s critically acclaimed

Back to Bacharach & David, which had a revival in Los Angeles with the participa- tion of Burt Bacharach and Hal David.


When did you first get your start in theatre? My best friend Kathy Najimy and I both grew up in San Diego, and we took a drama class at Horace Mann Junior High. From there we created a Drama Club and to this day we credit our ‘training’— which consisted of drama games like dressing up in characters and going to

restaurants and maintaining that character for the whole meal— as a great inspiration that has followed us into our adulthood. We remain best friends, and sometimes we both feel like we never stopped doing Drama Club!

You have had an incredible and colorful stage career. What has been the highlight so far?

Working with my idol Burt Bacharach on my Burt Bacharach show was a thrill

and getting his endorsement was a dream come true and creating shows like Suds with close friends and seeing the show go to New York and beyond. But one of my fondest memories was doing the playBirds of a Feather at Diversionary Theatre here in San Diego (directed by James Vasquez). It was based on a children’s book that had been partially banned because of its theme of gay acceptance (it was about gay penguins!) and it was such a beautiful work about inclusion that I felt lucky to be a part of it.

Birds of a Feather sounds adorable. What is the difference in doing a production in San Diego versus L.A.?

I don’t do much theatre in Los Angeles. Some on the outskirts, like Pasadena Playhouse, La Mirada, etc. But my theatre life is really in San Diego, which is a much better place to do theatre, in my opinion.

Why? So many amazing theatre companies and opportunities. However, Los Angeles is where my husband and my doggie are, so that’s where I hang my hat on my days off, or when I’m not in a show.

Why should our readers get out and see A Christmas Story? It’s just a great story, and I’m really impressed with this company. There is so much humor in the show. It has all the charm and heart of the original story and the movie, but a big bonus about the musical version is that you get these great musical numbers with knockout dancers and singers.

What do you hope is the walkaway for audiences? I think A Christmas Story appeals to everyone’s sense of nostalgia regarding the holidays. The holiday season is sort of a marker for us all in the different stages of our lives, and this show really puts you in the spirit of things, but also has a great sense of looking back in time and speaking to the kid in all of us.

A Christmas Story runs through Sunday, December 29 at Horton Grand Theatre, 444 Fourth Avenue in downtown San Diego.

photos by heather longfellow 44 RAGE monthly | December 2019

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