Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer Is Just As Fun On Stage As On Screen

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Santa meets Baby Rudolph in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: the Musical, Dec 22-23, 2018. Photo Credit: The Fabulous Fox Theatre

Since 1964, the Rankin/Bass animated film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has been a holiday staple for several generations. Featuring Burl Ives as Sam the Snowman, who regaled the viewers watching at home with his unmistakable voice on classics like “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Silver and Gold,” and of course the title track, the show was an instant classic. In the last few years, the show has been adapted for the theatrical stage by playwright Robert Penola and uses the original lyrics and score by Johnny Marks.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: the Musical played the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis December 22 – 23, 2018.  

The stage production sticks as close to the Rankin/Bass style as possible. When Trevin Goin hits the stage as Sam the Snowman you can’t help but smile. You also can’t help but wonder as to how he’s moving around—his costume doesn’t give him a lot of room and his movements look too fluid for someone who could only achieve short steps in the confines of the great snowball that covers his lower half. I suspect a hoverboard, a modified segue or some other remote controlled apparatus, none of which would be particularly easier than walking. Regardless of the technical aspects of his costume, Sam’s appearance was spot-on. Santa Claus, played by Erich Schroeder, looked like he was cut directly out of the film and given three-dimensional depth; his head covered in a bald cap, smoothly rounded beard and beady (at least from the distance of the audience) appeared to be picture-perfect. The same goes for Yukon Cornelius, played by Grant Hodges. His costume and singular beard shape were likewise exactly recreated.

Of course, the star of the show is still Rudolph, played by Natalie Macdonald. Covered head-to-toe in her Rudolph costume, with just her face visible under Rudolph’s head, Macdonald recreated the vocal nuances of original voice actress Billie Mae Richards so accurately I wondered for a moment if she was lip-synching, but soon realized she was just that good. There has been a wide variety of film and television shows re-imagined as stage productions, but you don’t expect the characters to sound exactly like they original actor. Trevin Goin was also fine of voice, though he sounded more like a musical theatre veteran than a Burl Ives impersonator. He smoothly led the audience in sing-a-longs with the lyrics projected on the scrim the framed the stage. Hermey, the elf who wanted to be a dentist (Dallas Perry), Boss Elf (Adrian Feliciano) Mrs. Claus (Melinda Koen), Clarise the young reindeer (Ellie Wyman) and the actors and puppeteers who bring the elves, the castaways on the Island of Misfit Toys and Bumble the Abominable Snowman to life all contributed to smiles and laughter throughout the show.

Clocking in at 90 minutes with a 20 minute intermission, the show should be just about the right length for even young audiences, provided they can survive that long without their electronic devices. Unfortunately, most of the children around me were paying more attention to their screens than to the stage, and their parents did little to encourage them to pay attention to the show. I suppose that’s the price for their silence, as one lady near me took her child’s phone away near the end of the first act and her child immediately started crying.  There was a noticeable din throughout the show, probably caused as much by parents attempting to hush their kids while trying to get them to sit still as much as the children themselves. While I don’t expect young children to sit patiently, silently and with rapt attention for 45 minutes at a time, one might consider if their child is ready for the theatre experience so as to not disturb the enjoyment of other guests.

If you missed the opportunity to see Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: the Musical this yea, hopefully you’ll have the opportunity next year when the holidays roll around once again. It could be the start of new family tradition and a great way to introduce your children to the joy of live theatre. Until then, I hope all my readers have a Holly Jolly Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

4.0 / 5.0