News Column

Christmas classic comes to NT

December 8, 2013


Dec. 08--For the second consecutive year, the classic film "A Christmas Story" will be screened Saturday at the Riviera Theatre & Performing Arts Center in North Tonawanda, accompanied this time by a growing list of cast members.

What has become a part of the country's collective culture during the holiday season, with marathon showings of the film on television each year, will also serve as a fundraiser for the theater as well as the Sweeney Hose #7 volunteer fire company.

Joe Lavey, president of the fire company, has turned the movie, a childhood passion of his, into holiday extravaganza in the Twin Cities.

The undertaking began last year, when he brought in actor Ian Petrella, who played the character Randy, Ralphie's younger brother, in the film.

This year, the movie's 30th anniversary, Petrella will also be joined by Zack Ward (Scut Farkus), the red-headed bully; Yano Anaya (Grover Dill), the little bully; Scott Schwartz (Flick), Ralphie's friend whose tongue was infamously stuck to a flag pole; Tedde Moore (Ms. Shields), the teacher; and Patty Johnson-Lafontaine, who played the female Higbee's Elf.

The cast members will take part in a parade beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday on Broad Street in the City of Tonawanda and will include the original fire truck from the movie, before heading over to the Riviera Theatre at 1 p.m. for a two-hour question and answer session, followed by a 3 p.m. screening of "A Christmas Story." Rides on the fire truck will also be available for a small donation.

Lavey said what started as a one-time plan to raise money for his fire company, has grown into a vision for an annual affair.

The 33-year-old began collecting replica items from the movie in 2000, acquiring two Red Ryder BB guns, figurines and two copies of the renowned leg lamp, which now sit in his North Tonawanda home, often drawing the attention of passers-by.

"My goal now is to bring something to the community that a family can afford," Lavey said, "And do a unique family show."

Timothy Bendig, who represents the actors through In Person Production, a celebrity management and production company out of Pittsburg, said he worked with Lavey for months to bring together the reunion show.

And while the actors will make about a dozen stops around the country this holiday season, the North Tonawanda show will have the most cast members, according to Bendig.

"The fans, the community, they have no idea how much planning goes into this," he said. "The cast members are all over the place and this is the first time they're all going to be getting together."

Lavey said he has become friends with Petrella over the last year, noting the actor spent time at his Wurlitzer Park home prior to the 2012 holiday showing, when he autographed one of his leg lamps.

"Last year when Ian came here he was really impressed with the theater," Lavey said. "He literally said this is the nicest place he's come for a show. He interacted with fans, the turnout was really good. We expect it to be even bigger this year."

Tickets are still available at the Riviera Theatre's box office or online at


(c)2013 Tonawanda News (North Tonawanda, N.Y.)

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