Rudolph, that red-nosed hero of snowy Christmases, takes center stage now through Dec. 24 at the Duke Energy Center for Performing Arts in Raleigh.
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical" is on stage as part of Storybook Theater, a collaboration with Broadway Series South and Marbles Kids Museum. The series has brought children's theater to the Triangle for two seasons so far.
This musical version of Rudolph looks, sounds and feels like the stop motion animated TV special that we all know and love, starring Burl Ives as the voice of narrator Sam the Snowman. The Christmas classic premiered 50 years ago this Saturday, Dec. 6, and is among the longest-running holiday specials still on TV.
Here, Sam the Snowman (played by T. Philip Caudle) returns with Rudolph; Hermey, the elf who hopes to be a dentist; Santa; Clarice; and Yukon Cornelius, the affable prospector. Sam tells the story of Rudolph, who is ridiculed for his nose, so he runs away from Santa's village; meets up with Hermey and Yukon; and lands on the Island of Misfit toys.
The story takes Rudolph, eventually, to the Abominable Snow Monster's cave to save his parents and Clarice, who were looking for him. Once home, Santa realizes how valuable that red nose is as a blizzard threatens his Christmas Eve trip. Rudolph saves the day.
From the music and lines to the design and costumes, the show nearly transports you to the set of that 1964 classic. You'll recognize songs such as "A Holly Jolly Christmas," "We're a Couple of Misfits," and "Silver and Gold."
The male elves are dressed in blue. The female elves are donned in soft pink dresses with a blond bob under their pointy hats. Yukon Cornelius (played by Michael Brocki) is dressed in bright blue and brings some much-needed comic relief to a story that, in the first act at least, is a little sad. The Boss Elf delivers his orders in a green suit. You sometimes see Santa without his hat on (he's bald!).
Sam the Snowman's big, bulbous costume that covers everything from his neck down makes it appear as if he's gliding across the stage. Even Rudolph's sometimes nasally voice (played by Waylin Owsley) and Hermey's meek, slightly nerdy voice (played by Adam Poole) sound a lot like the characters from the show.
Then there are the puppets - from the forest animals that follow Santa and hang out on the sidelines to the Charlie-in-the-Box, Dolly and other not-quite-right toys who live on the Island of Misfit Toys. Puppeteers dressed all in white handle them which, again, look just like the ones from the TV special.
And it would be impossible to forget that towering Abominable Snow Monster, which appears from the back of the stage at first and eventually makes his way to the front as he holds Rudolph's parents and Clarice captive. The puppet stands 12 feet tall and weighs 80 pounds. He's operated by one puppeteer inside the suit and two more operating his hands.
Last year, Storybook Theater presented "Frosty the Snowman," starring the incredibly charismatic Jonathan Cobrda, a Greensboro native, as Frosty. It was a fantastic show that was full of energy and told a heartwarming story.
I think Rudolph will appeal to slightly younger audiences - toddlers to grade schoolers, primarily, and their parents. My five-year-old was completely mesmerized by the show. My nine-year-old enjoyed it.
The show runs a little over an hour, a perfect length for young theater goers. The first act is 38 minutes, followed by a 15-minute intermission and a 25-minute second act. So parents are prepared, I'll share that there is a shop in the lobby with everything from $1 pencils to $30 stuffed Rudolphs. You've been warned!
Tickets start at $20 and are required for everybody over age one. It runs nearly everyday between now and Dec. 24.