For a long time, it didn't look like it was going to happen.

Tim Perrino, artistic director of the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts in Price Hill, and his wife, business manager Jennifer Perrino, had all but given up.

They had started requesting the rights to produce A Christmas Story at the Covedale three seasons ago. They wanted to be the first production company in Cincinnati to do the show. Yet although their queries to Dramatic Publishing, the company that administers the play, were always met with "We'll get back to you," the phone never rang.

Tim had heard about the play, an adaptation of the popular 1983 movie, from two of his friends. One saw it out of town and immediately called Tim. "You guys have to do this play," she said. His other friend was even more blunt. She sent Tim the script and said, "You, do this play."

"She knows I'm a nut for Christmas shows," Tim recalls. "And it's such a great adaptation of the movie."

Last year, Tim and Jennifer were working on the Covedale's new season lineup, which they announce each spring. Jennifer had called Dramatic Publishing about getting A Christmas Story and heard the customary, "We'll let you know." But once again, the phone never rang, and the Perrinos decided they had to scrap it and move forward with a different show. They decided on Miracle on 34th Street.

In a case of dramatic irony, Dramatic Publishing called Jennifer the day they announced their new season and told her the Covedale could do A Christmas Story.

"It was crazy," Tim says. "But we'd already announced we were doing Miracle and it ended up being a great show and a big hit, so it worked out."

This past spring, Tim and Jennifer tried one last time. They heard the same responses, and eventually, Tim decided he'd had enough. "I told Jen to call back and say we didn't want to do it," he says. "They said, 'Wait a minute. We'll get back to you.'"

At 3 p.m. that day, in an indifferent, anticlimactic concession, someone from Dramatic Publishing called and simply said, "You can have it."

Tim believes the hold-up was a large theater within 100 miles that had put a geographic hold on the play. "That's the general speculation on something like that," he says. But none of that dampened the Perrinos' victory.

"Our annual Christmas show is very, very important to us," Tim says. "It has to be a fun, big-time Christmas show. It's how we like to celebrate the holidays with our family, friends and community."

Although the play, which runs Dec. 2-22 at the Covedale, is closely based on the movie, it does have a few subtle differences. For instance, there's a girl in the cast, who, as Tim says, "is sweet on Ralphie" (played by 11-year-old Michael Van Schoik). At the end, Tim notes, there's a "little, tiny" scene between Ralphie and the girl, and you get the sense that, in a few years, Ralphie is going to outgrow toys and Red Ryder BB guns and is going to like girls. "It's so innocent and sweet," Tim says. "It's just a neat, neat way to make a commentary on childhood."

Another difference is that grown-up Ralphie narrates from the stage at parts, in addition to doing all the voiceovers and playing the Christmas tree salesman and the deliveryman who brings the Parkers the leg lamp box.

Next year, Tim hopes White Christmas will be released from its national tour so the Covedale can produce it. "Cross your fingers," he says. "I think we'd knock that show out of the park." As for whether the show will be in next season's lineup, we'll get back to you.