Cooney Family sitting in theatre seatsLeft to right: Lolly, Gavin, Jessica, and Dan. Photo by Dayle Ann Hunt.

By: Doug Marrin

If you’re looking for a cute and heartwarming family event this Christmas season, look no further.

The Encore has been touted as “a family” and that has never been truer than this holiday season. The Cooney family is taking the stage at The Encore in its production of A Christmas Story, the Musical. The show, based on the popular 1983 movie, was nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The story takes place in 1940s Indiana where young Ralphie Parker dreams of the ideal holiday gift — a Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun – despite Mother’s warning that “you’ll shoot your eye out!”

The musical runs at The Encore Theatre from Nov 25 through Dec 18.

The Cooney Family, no strangers to The Encore, are making the musical a family affair this holiday season, from their family to yours. The Encore’s Artistic Director, Dan Cooney, directs the production which will star his son, Gavin (11), as “Ralphie”, his wife, Broadway veteran Jessica Grové in the role of “Mother,” and daughter, Lolly (6), in the children’s ensemble. Grové, who has 5 Broadway shows under her belt, has been seen on The Encore stage in various productions including Into the Woods and My Fair Lady. Gavin was last seen in Fun Home, and this is Lolly’s Encore Theatre debut.

“We practically live at the theatre,” says Grové, who also serves as The Encore’s marketing director, “so we thought, ‘why not make this something even more meaningful that we can all be involved in together?’”

“The role of Ralphie is massive and Gavin has been preparing for it for nearly a year, taking voice lessons from the incredible Marlene Inman, who has performed at The Encore herself, but makes her living as the most sought-after voice teacher in the area,” says Dan. “Gavin doesn’t seem to be phased at all. He has jumped in with great enthusiasm and is tackling this role like a pro.”

“It’s been great fun to be working with Dan and our kids,” says Jessica. “My only regret is that I won’t get to watch them perform from the audience!”

“I grew up performing with my parents and brother, so having this opportunity is truly a full-circle moment for me,” continues Jessica. “It’s especially fun for me to see how our children, who have been exposed to The Encore their entire lives, truly seem to have a love for the spotlight coursing through their veins. It reminds me so much of myself as a child.”

Grové did try to convince her husband to play “The Old Man” but as the director, Dan felt that local star, David Moan, would be the perfect, comedic fit for the role.

The Cooney Family isn’t the only family participating in this current production. In fact, there are three other sets of siblings: Charlotte and Lila Teall Beaver (of Ann Arbor), Vaan and Carson Otto (of Brighton), and Jack and Cora Steiger (of Oxford). In addition, Sarah B. Stevens, who has starred in many Encore productions, is standing by for Grové (in case of illness) and her daughter Elly Briggs plays the role of “Nancy” in the children’s ensemble.

A Christmas Story, The Musical is generously sponsored by Hackney Hardware and runs Nov 25-Dec 18.

Get your tickets at, through the box office (no fee) by calling 734-268-6200, or in person at The Encore Musical Theatre Company, 7714 Ann Arbor Street, Dexter MI 48130. Box office hours are currently Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, 10 AM–2 PM.

Source: The Sun Times