For years, the story of a beloved reindeer born with a glowing red nose has inspired children across the world to feel confident with their unique differences — plus, it puts them in the holiday spirit during this festive season. On Dec. 6, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” will come to life through the words of Bob Penola in his musical adaptation of the classic tale.
“I grew up watching Rudolph each and every Christmas, starting in 1964,” Penola said. “In the many years before video, DVD and digital video, that night was almost as magical as Christmas itself. About 20 years ago, as I was watching my Rudolph video, I realized that this wonderful story — with its engaging story and charming songs — was already a true musical. It just needed to be translated from an animated television special into a live musical show.”
The 90-minute touring musical, in partnership with PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, is specifically designed to be family friendly, with a 20-minute intermission for guests to get out any squirminess. Even children who have seen the stop-motion animated television special over and over will love the show, as the cast and crew worked together to make each scene as close as possible to the original. This stage version also uses more songs by the man who penned the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” Johnny Marks.
Bella Hicks, who plays Rudolph, studied the original film to learn the character’s mannerisms and voice, and closely watched her pet Yorkie to infuse some originality and cuteness. This is her first year taking on the role with the tour, but one that she said she was excited to play and make her own.
“I think that’s something that’s cool about live theater,” Hicks said, “you’re getting the same show at the same caliber of excellence, and then just a little bit of uniqueness, depending on which night you’re there and who you get to see, and I think that’s so special.”
Throughout his journeys of self-discovery and where he is meant to be, Rudolph comes across the Island of Misfit Toys. This group of outcast playthings immediately accepts Rudolph for the reindeer that he is, red nose and all. The work together to help Rudolph return to the North Pole, where Santa realizes that the luminous reindeer is the key to saving Christmas on one fateful foggy night. Traditionally, the happy ending comes when his family and friends finally accept him, but this is not the moral that Hicks saw in the show.
“I think the story has always been that you root for this person who is being left out, you root for the inclusivity and for him to be accepted,” Hicks said. “In our story, Rudolph comes upon a few other misfits. That made me realize that he actually finds his true community with the other misfits and the other people who don’t necessarily belong. Then they, as a whole, are accepted into the community. I think that’s so beautiful, to find your tribe and find your group of people that appreciates you and doesn’t even necessarily notice what’s odd about you.”
For Penola, this tale of a bullied character finding his home and becoming accepted is what drew him to tell the story in the first place, and is something he hopes the audience can take away from the production. The show is primarily directed towards children, who are known to face many of these issues every day. The cast and crew hopes this show can shine a light in those difficult times.
“We want any, and all, who come to see this show to experience the joy and delight of experiencing a beloved Christmas tradition live and in person, across generations,” Penola said, “and also to relate to the core story of bullying and the incredible power of individuality.”
Penola said the show highlights the fact that each one of us brings our own unique gifts to this world and that we should “exploit our individuality and be proud of it always.”
But most importantly, the show is meant to spread the holiday spirit and provide a fun way for families to bond over a classic tale. The music adds an all new element to the story of the most famous reindeer of all, while retaining the aspects that made it so popular.
“There are so many moments that I am not even in that I love to watch backstage and I just smile and beam with delight,” Hicks said.
Hicks said her personal favorite moment is at the beginning of the show, when the audience is introduced to baby Rudolph and can watch his family dance to “Jingle, Jingle.” The puppeteering and choreography come together to officially welcome the audience into the world of Christmas Town, and into a wonderful memory for the whole family.
Rudolph Live comes to the Union Colony Civic Center, 701 10th Ave., Greeley, at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6 and will also be on stage at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Pikes Peak Center, 190 S Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs, so fly to the box office soon to learn more.
If you go
What: “Rudolf the Musical”
When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6
Where: Union Colony Civic Center, 701 10th Ave., Greeley
More info: ucstars.com/upcoming-shows/