RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER THE MUSICAL
Based on the 1964 animated television special, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” Stage production directed and conceived by Jeff Frank and First Stage
Stage Adaptation by: Robert Penola
Arrangements by: Timothy Splain
Orchestrations by: William C. White
Music and Lyrics by: Johnny Marks
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” animated television special adapted from a story by Robert L. May and the song by Johnny Marks
Dallas Summer Musicals
Musical Director—Will Reynolds
Projection Designer – Infante Media
Lighting Designer—Jean-Yves Tessier
Sound Designer – Julie Ferrin
Costume Design/Puppets Design—Hard Drive Productions
Wig Design—Anthony Gagliardi
Sam the Snowman—Steve Watkins
Mrs. Claus—Aviva Pressman
Santa Claus—Doug LoPachin
Donner—Jon M. Wailin
Mrs. Donner—Melissa Glasgow
Boss Elf—Andrew Kruep
Elves—Aubrey Elson, Nick Gardner, Natalie Iscovich, Nancy Lam, Steven Rada, Matthew Thurmond
Coach Comet—Fred Inkley
Yearlings—Aubrey Elson, Nick Gardner, Natalie Iscovich, Anthony Marone, Matthew Thurmond
Yukon Cornelius—Fred Inkley
Puppeteers—Aubrey Elson, Nick Gardner, Melissa Glasgow, Natalie Iscovich, Matt Kriger, Andrew Kruep, Anthony Marone, Daniel Moser
King Moonracer—Jon M. Wailin
Reviewed Performance: 11/25/2016
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
One of the most beloved Christmas television specials of all time, “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” first aired in 1964, and has aired every year for the last fifty-two years without fail. Each year as we move forward with the holiday season, one thing that I greatly look forward to is settling in to watch one of my favorite holiday specials, “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” It never fails, each year; I am reminded of watching this program with my Dad every Christmas growing up. There was always something special about this show. Perhaps it was the moral of the story (overcoming adversity and preaching acceptance), the soundtrack of “A Holly Jolly Christmas” and the title song, or maybe it was the enjoyment of the primitive stop-motion animation from 1964…whatever the reason, this special has withstood the test of time, and continues to be an annual tradition for families everywhere. Not bad for a “story based on a song based on a story” from 1939 published by the Montgomery Ward Company. On a personal note, I have started watching with my son, just as my Dad did with me all those years ago, creating new traditions, and fondly remembering the old ones.
Director Dana Solimando brought together a strong cast who worked well together. It is apparent that a lot of talent, energy and research went into this production. There were so many moments where I felt I was actually watching the 1964 annual holiday special- that I watch year after year, but live on stage. There were details that were almost identical to the television special, which captured quite a bit of magic. There were also moments that were new (as with any stage adaptation) that gave a new bit of life to the story. The chemistry displayed between these familiar characters on stage was very magical. With Solimando’s phenomenal staging, audiences were taken on a journey, and were given a lovely sense of holiday nostalgia-something that people so desperately need in a season of hurry, headaches, and consumerism. It was nice to see this production pay homage the longest-running Christmas television special in history.
Projections were designed by Infante Media. There were many surprises that came along with the set and overall design. I really had no idea what to expect before seeing this show. Of course, I was expecting some of the elements that reminded me of the television special. However, I was more than surprised and impressed to see how accurate the production and projection designs resembled the original backdrops of the story. From the very early “three-dimensional” Christmas trees, to the usage of certain scenes as a background to some of the action, I was quite impressed with how realistic and authentic the designers were able to make the production.
I was most impressed with the use of puppets throughout the production. The authenticity of the characters that the puppets portrayed on stage also gave the production the magic and whimsy that has made the story special for audiences for over fifty years. I loved seeing the larger than life “Bumble” snow monster, and hearing the sad stories of the unwanted toys on the Island of Misfit Toys. The innocence of the original production was present, and I felt that the puppets were handled with talent and care- and were never an “afterthought” to the designers. Often times, puppets and puppetry (which is truly a difficult and lost art) can be handled in a number of ways. In this production, the puppets were manipulated and conveyed to the audience as if these characters were actually personified. From the excellently concealed manipulators (dressed discreetly as snow) to the varied voices and facial expressions of the puppets, I felt that they never played down to the audience, but continued to drive the magic and sentimentality of the story. I firmly believe that it is the responsibility (and a pleasure) to attend a production and to be taken on a journey into the world of the play. In current times, audiences desperately need an absence of reality. With “Rudolph,” audiences are afforded this opportunity.
A fantastic and talented team at Hard Drive Productions designed costumes. Costumes also complimented the scenic/projections design. The costumes were very appropriate to the story, and were an accurate representation of each character’s personality. Similar to the other elements of the production design, the costumes were faithful to the original, and were full of texture, color, and charm. From the overly starched elf dresses to the instantly recognizable blue coat and yellow ear muffs of Yukon Cornelius, I guarantee you will be impressed with the attention to detail and care given to each of these characters through their costumes.
Wesley Edwards was incredible in the role of Hermey, the “misfit elf” who longed to be a dentist. Mr. Edwards was certainly the epitome of what I would expect to see in this role. Not only did he have fantastic facial expressions, and a lovely boyish charm, but also, from the moment he began to speak on stage, he had the same staccato delivery as the character in the television special, and the same tone of voice. It is apparent to me that Mr. Edwards spent a great deal of time listening to the original voice actor and even incorporated some of the stop-motion animated movements of Hermey, as well. The audience on Friday night erupted in laughter and delight when he delivered his first line, because I believe we all felt that he had captured exactly how this character was in our memories. His portrayal was spot-on, and gave this reviewer a smile from ear to ear as I watched intently, reminding me of the annual Christmas tradition of watching this show growing up.
Steve Watkins was phenomenal in the role of the all-knowing narrator, Sam the Snowman, portrayed in the original special by legendary actor and folk singer, Burl Ives. As a child, I never realized how important this character was to the story. Functioning as a third-person omniscient narrator, Sam the Snowman provides the running commentary of the story, while also giving the audience discreet clues about what was to happen next, “I sent them right out after Rudolph.” Mr. Watkins also performed some of the most beloved Christmas songs from the story, with great enthusiasm. Through facial expressions, mannerisms and overall delivery, Watkins convincingly portrays the larger than life snowman live on stage. It was lovely to see Mr. Watkins portray this character with such honesty. Mr. Watkins had some nice moments on stage alone, “Silver and Gold” and he also had some very nice chemistry with the rest of the ensemble. One of my all-time holiday favorites is “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” and Watkins delivers in the role of Sam the Snowman with energy and magnetism.
Another standout performance was Sarah Errington as the title character, Rudolph, who overcomes the adversity of being different. Ms. Errington provided some nice moments on stage with Hermey, and with Clarice (played wonderfully by Becca Andrews). I greatly enjoyed seeing the two different versions of Rudolph (as the young buck and the more mature stag) later in the story. Her humorous interactions on stage were enjoyable to watch. I thoroughly enjoyed her portrayal of Rudolph and feel quite certain that her genuine nature and amusing character will delight audiences of all ages. I also enjoyed seeing Rudolph take flight at various times throughout the story-it certainly was a fascinating and fun moment for the audience.
“Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer The Musical” is an enjoyable experience at the theatre. If anything, it is one of the holiday classics that audiences should see and share with the young, and the young at heart. It was a pleasurable evening at the theater that I was able to share with my six-year-old son Paul, as we prepare for the upcoming holiday season. There was nothing more exciting for me than to see the faces of so many children light up in the audience and to get excited about Christmas at the performance. It did exactly what theatre is supposed to do- entertain, enlighten and take audiences on a magical journey, while teaching an important life lesson or two. This production was staged as the appropriate homage to the original, and was handled with great delicacy and care. Hurry, you have a very limited opportunity to see “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer The Musical” at the Music Hall at Fair Park. Then, it will go down in history.
RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER THE MUSICAL
Dallas Summer Musicals at Music Hall at Fair Park
909 1ST AVE., DALLAS, TX 75210
Plays through Sunday, November 27. 2016
Saturday, Nov. 26 at 11:00 am
Saturday, Nov. 26 at 2:00 pm
Saturday, Nov. 26 at 6:00 pm
Sunday, Nov. 27 at 1:30 pm
Ticket prices range from $17.00-$60.00 depending on day and seating.
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.DallasSummerMusicals.org by phone at 1.800.514.ETIX (3849), and at The Box Office, 5959 Royal Lane, Suite 542, in Dallas, Texas.
Groups of 10 or more receive a 15% discount, priority seating, and many more benefits. Please call 214.426.GROUP (4768) or email Groups@DallasSummerMusicals.org