Dallas — The weather outside was frightful, but inside the Majestic Theater on Thursday night families with young children were smiling and cheering for the “most famous reindeer of all.” Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the Musical, presented by Wishing Star Productions, is a happy and fast-moving family show with clever puppets, bright costumes and an enthusiastic and playful cast of singers and dancers. The kindergarten crowd, dressed up for the occasion, was especially delighted by the prancing, muscular reindeer costumes that show the actors’ faces below the antlers.
Director Joe Sturgeon adapted the show from the 1964 Bass and Rankin animated television special, first produced at Casa Mañana in Fort Worth when Sturgeon was the resident director there. With its plush red velvet seats, brilliant chandeliers and gold-leaf architectural trim, the Majestic is a terrific venue for a Christmas show. Before the show starts, holiday music fills the air and an intricate snowflake lighting design covers the curtains and ceilings of the theater. When the curtain goes up, we are at the North Pole, suggested by huge, glittering white icebergs designed by Dallas Stage Scenery. Sam the Snowman (Jason C. Kane, a solid tenor with an engaging drawl) performs narrator duties and leads all the sing-alongs.
Right away, we see that baby Rudolph’s family is eager to hide his shiny red nose because it makes him different from all the other reindeer. Even Santa (a lanky and fatherly Doug Lopachin) points out that only the perfect specimen make his sleigh team. As he grows to be a young buck, Rudolph (an energetic and ernest Jordon Brodess) resists his dad’s wish to cover his glowing nose with a big brown ball that makes his voice sound funny.
Meanwhile, over at the toy factory, everybody is rushing to get ready for the big day. The demanding Boss Elf (a stern and glowering Doug Jackson) is hurrying his elf crew, bouncing around in their little green jackets and yellow tights. Boss Elf is furious with Hermey (a sweet-faced and gawky Christopher J. Deaton), a tall, distracted elf who hates making toys and longs to be a dentist. Boss Elf insists Hermey get with the program, go to elf practice, and “learn to wiggle your ears.”
Happily, Hermey and Rudolph meet up and become fast friends, singing “We’re a Couple of Misfits”, a funny duet in which they decide to be themselves, and be “independent together.” Then Rudolph meets the young doe Clarice (wide-eyed Mary McElree), and is smitten. Now he is more determined than ever to make good—for himself and for his friends.
Rudolph and Hermey hit the snowy road, leaving behind the conforming herd and workplace. They meet up with Yukon Cornelius (a foot-stomping funny Greg Dulcie) a crazy gold miner with a giant handlebar mustache and a huge sled pulled by a dachshund. The second act is filled with their adventures, including a trip to the land of rejected toys. The stage fills with huge puppets, imaginatively designed and fabricated by Kathy Kreuter, including a cowboy riding an ostrich, a Charlie-in-the-box, and a bright blue airplane that will not take off. The larger-than-life misfit puppets, unobtrusively and expertly manipulated by actors in white leotards, long to be loved by a child, as they wistfully sing “The Most Wonderful Day of the Year.”
Suddenly, everybody is terrified when a huge storm blows through. Bumble the Abominable Snowman, an enormous 11-foot puppet operated by three people, has all the elves and reindeer in a dither. But nobody stays in danger or disgrace too long. The foggy Christmas Eve arrives, Santa needs some special help, and high overhead we see a familiar sleigh flying across the stage. Before you can finish singing “Holly, Jolly Christmas,” the whole cast is celebrating the marvelous misfit hero of the show. The weather held crowds to a minimum the night I saw the show, but everybody there was shouting and singing along with Sam the Snowman, celebrating Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
The show runs 90 music- and action-packed minutes, including a 15-minute intermission to re-charge with hot chocolate. This leaves plenty of time after the show for the excited young theatergoers to take pictures with the reindeer and Santa in the lobby.