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“When he was onstage, my eye kept drifting to him,” says Rando. “He has a kind of young, scrappy boy quality that I think fits the part. He’s hearty. He’s from the Midwest and that also gave him a quality that I was really interested in.”

West was cast after he submitted a video audition and was asked to come to New York to try out in person. “He had a remarkable singing voice for an 11-year-old boy. That was the thing that really perked up our interest in him,” says Rando. “He, too, has this sort of scrappy quality that I think is really right for the role.”

If ever they need inspiration, the boys need look no further than Peter Billingsley, the original Ralphie, who has signed on as a producer of the musical. All three have chatted.

“We’ve been told to play our own Ralphie. He hasn’t given us a lot of advice. He’s just saying, `Be your own Ralphie and have a lot of fun,’” says Rabe.

Along the way, the two boys have bonded. Quick to joke around but equally serious when it comes to work, Rabe and West have learned how to tap dance and discovered that they both like fencing. They’re also earning a paycheck for being on Broadway.

How much? They’re too polite to say.

“A very nice amount for a 12-year-old,” says West with a laugh.




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