The Cary Players’ second annual presentation of Jean Shepherd’s royally entertaining Depression-era comedy A Christmas Story, presented in association with the Applause! Cary Youth Theatre and the Town of Cary, is becoming a Cary, NC Yuletide tradition. This charming community-theater production, imaginatively staged by director Debra Zumbach Grannan, will light up playing areas all around the auditorium of Old Cary Elementary School once again this week.

A Christmas Story centers around the seemingly impossible request of young Ralphie Parker (Nixon Ball) that his Mom (Stacy Ingham) and Dad (Chris McKittrick) buy him a Red Ryder 200-Shot Carbine-Action Range Model Air Rifle for Christmas. “You’ll shoot your eye out” is what his parents, his teacher Miss Shields (Nicola Lefler), and all the other grownups say when Ralphie asks for a BB gun. But Ralphie is nothing if not persistent.

Nixon Ball is amusing as Ralphie; Austin Neaville is cute as his cry-baby kid brother Randy; Chris McKittrick is a pip as his kind-hearted would-be Mr. Fixit father who wages a losing battle with the family furnace; and Stacy Ingham is delightful as Ralphie’s ever-practical mother who has made meatloaf and red cabbage the winter-time staple of the Parker family menu. Matt Schedler is suave as the grown-up Ralph Parker, who narrates the story; Jim Zervas is gritty as Ralphie’s childhood hero Red Ryder; Nicola Lefler is good as his teacher Miss Shields; and Quinn Roels and especially Luke Bunting are very funny as Ralphie’s friends Schwartz and Flick.

Christy Soeder is cute as little Ester Jane Alberry, who carries a big torch for Ralphie Parker; Mick Williams is suitably rotten as school bully Scut Farkas; Mark Mickunas and Cheryl O’Hara play Santa and Mrs. Claus with gusto; Mark Anderson is good as department-store owner Mr. Goldblatt; and Jillian Lefler, Noa Bunting, and Jasmine Schmidt provoke belly-laughs during their brief appearance as the Bumpus Hounds who plague the Parker family.

Director Debra Grannan handles her large ensemble with a firm hand; scenic designer Bob Strowbridge’s sprawling set does a nice job of recreating various locations (all around the auditorium!) in Hohman, Indiana, circa 1938, and in Ralphie’s imagination; and costume designer LeGrande Smith dresses the cast in a striking array of 1930s costumes that not only adds authenticity to the production, but combined with the efforts of the rest of the cast and crew, helps ensure that there will be a third and fourth and fifth annual production of A Christmas Story.

Cary Players, Applause! Cary Youth Theatre, and the Town of Cary present A Christmas Story Friday-Saturday, Dec. 9-10, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 11, at 3 p.m. at Old Cary Elementary School, 100 Dry Ave., Cary, North Carolina. $12 ($8 students 17 and under and $10 seniors 55 and over). 919/469-4061. Cary Players: home.html [inactive 9/06]. Applause! Cary youth theatre: prdept/cultural/applause.htm [inactive 10/09]. Town of Cary: A Christmas Story: [inactive 6/08].