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The Music of ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’

First Stage revives the delightful holiday children’s show

Nov. 29, 2016
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Photo by Paul Ruffolo

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and with the revival of First Stage’s delightful Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical, Christmas gets an even brighter (red) glow—thanks to the most famous reindeer of all.

Rudolph is based on the 1964 animated TV special of the same name, and for those who grew up on the show and waited all year long to see it, this production once again beautifully captures all the details and charms from start to finish within a one-hour-and-20-minute production (including a 15-minute intermission). 

Robert Penola’s well-penned script adaptation is faithful down to the smallest movement by the tiniest elf, and director Jeff Frank magically conjures this timeless story of outsiders becoming heroes—and being accepted in the process—into an exciting, three-dimensional world filled with flying reindeer, dancing elves and, of course, the (somewhat) scary Abominable Snow Monster. Frank uses actors dressed in all white to move the animals and Sam the Snowman and it works seamlessly here.

The Silver cast of the 18-member children’s ensemble performed opening night, and what a fine job they did—in particular, Jack Trettin as Rudolph. Trettin gets the vulnerability of young Rudolph just right, singing with a clear tone and perfectly mimicking Rudolph with dirt covering his shiny nose.

The eight-member adult cast fares just as well. Matt Daniels is so fun to watch as the curmudgeonly Boss Elf and the unhappy Charlie-in-the-Box. Todd Denning is a spot-on caricature of the TV Santa Claus, including the voice. Add Drew Brunel to the mix as Coach Comet and Yukon Cornelius and the stage is perfectly set. Karen Estrada as Mrs. Claus makes the most of her role, and Robert Spencer’s reprisal of Sam the Snowman completes the holiday portrait.

“I love this time of year,” says Sam to all the big and little kids intently watching. Thanks to this Rudolph, we do, too, along with that shiny red nose.

Through Dec. 31 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts’ Todd Wehr Theater, 123 E. State St. For tickets, call 414-267-2961 or visit firststage.org.

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