— The Christmas theater season got off to a “glowing” start Tuesday with Performing Arts Fort Worth’s presentation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical at Bass Hall.
This show, which is an adaptation of the 1964 stop-motion animation television classic that is a regular visitor to our small screens this time of year, debuted at Casa Mañana in 2010. Under the guidance of its director, former Casa Children’s Theatre director Joe Sturgeon, it has gone out on its own and has grown into a bigger, brighter holiday extravaganza without losing a bit of its original charm.
Youngsters of all ages are familiar with the story as told in the television special, which featured the voice of Burl Ives. The title reindeer with the glowing red proboscis has trouble fitting in with his antlered buddies at the North Pole. But then, a change in the weather leads to a general change of heart, allowing Rudolph to qualify for participation in reindeer games after all. There is also a sub-plot about an elf, Hermey (Kyle Montgomery), who is more interested in orthodontia than toy fabrication, a few wacky supporting characters, like Yukon Cornelius (Jeremiah Johnson), and some impressive puppets that include a talking lion and a growling Yeti, known as the Abominable Snow Monster.
The recorded soundtrack is loaded with familiar holiday tunes, such as A Holly Jolly Christmas and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree by Johnny Marks, who also wrote the classic title song made famous by Gene Autry, as well as the other music for the television special.
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This production sparkles in a number of ways. The singing and broadly-played acting is strong across the board, with Montgomery doing an especially nice job with his part. The costuming, adapted by Costume Specialist Inc., and puppet design, by Kathy Kreuter, are two of its greatest strengths. The set design by Dallas Stage Scenery is simple but effective, thanks to being embellished by some nifty lighting and projections by Jason S. Foster. And Sturgeon moves everything along a lightning pace that assures a young audience will remain engaged throughout.
The only question that might be raised is whether this 90-minute production needs its intermission. It is probably flashy and noisy enough to hold even toddlers for 70 or 75 minutes without a break.
So, like its source material, this musical is intended to entertain the youngest of theater patrons. But it is an ideal show for grownups who want to get their children excited about the season and live theater with a single outing.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical
1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday