A Christmas Story Live: Ana Gasteyer takes on a Hanukkah number written just for her
A Christmas Story Live is getting its own Hanukkah miracle — in the form of a song newly written for the television broadcast called “Market for a Miracle.”
As Mrs. Schwartz, mother to Ralphie’s school friend, Ana Gasteyer struts and belts her way through a number crafted specifically for her voice by the wunderkind duo of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land, Dear Evan Hansen). The prospect of this number is what got the Saturday Night Live alum and Broadway veteran on board in the first place.
“Basically the telecast required one more number because of the way the commercials were paced, so they looked at the piece overall, and they decided there would be a really great moment for a Hanukkah number,” Gasteyer tells EW. “The show didn’t have a Hanukkah number and so they called me up and said, ‘Hey listen, we’re thinking about writing a Hanukkah number and we’d like to write it for you, and can we do that?’ And I said, ‘Why yes, why thank you!’”
Writers Robert Cary and Jonathan Tolins further explain to EW that the song partly arose from a need to expand the story to fit the three-hour live musical time block, as well as a hole in the original storytelling.
“We watched the original movie and we saw that there was this issue that Ralphie blames his friend Schwartz for something and we wanted to know ‘Where does that go?’” explains Tolins. “He never dealt with his friend, and that led to us coming up with this Hanukkah song, so that’s exciting that we’re adding new things to the world of A Christmas Story.”
Gasteyer previously worked with producer Marc Platt on Grease Live and appeared in Wicked as Elphaba. However, having a role and a song developed for her was an entirely new experience. “I’ve been working awhile and I have to fight for things a lot and it’s so moving to have to have somebody call you up and say, ‘We have something, we think you would be good at it,’” she says. “It’s so flattering.”
Gasteyer says the song came out of many sessions working with Pasek and Paul, as well as wanting to emphasize her strengths as a belter and jazz singer. “It was kind of an unbelievable experience,” she remembers. “I sat in a room with Pasek and Paul and Marc [Platt], and they were thinking, ‘Hey, what do you think about this?’ And my record has a lot of ridiculous jazz on it, and I sent them a couple of songs and said, ‘Listen to this — maybe something in a sort of jazzy, sassy way might be really fun.’ I’m a big belter, and so they thought they’d write something kind of old-fashioned and Merman-y.”
Though she previously did Grease Live!and has both live TV and Broadway experience, Gasteyer calls the experience of doing a live musical on television “surreal.”
“Maya [Rudolph] and I talk about it a lot because we both come from that world, and the thing about theater is it’s very refined and it’s very rehearsed and there’s a sense of wanting to do it really well,” she says. “Maybe this is just my brain, and then you throw live television on it and there’s this kind of catch-as-catch-can grammar, so it’s this weird mash-’em-up of fast-and-loose and super-rehearsed. I remember this with Grease too, I felt kind of like, I don’t know, like I was mid-dryer-cycle the entire time, but hopefully by [Sunday] night we settle in. That’s what happened with Grease; once the ride started it was incredibly fun.”
A Christmas Story Live airs tonight at 7 p.m. ET (tape-delayed PT) on Fox.