The little reindeer with the bright red nose who saved Santa one foggy Christmas Eve has appeared in a handful of movies and cartoons, but none more famous than the NBC 1964 stop-motion special that became an instant holiday classic. On Dec. 2, that beloved version of Rudolph's story returns to the Walton Arts Center stage -- complete with the full cast of characters: Hermey the Elf, Yukon Cornelius, the Island of Misfit Toys and even Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster.
"There's a couple added things but no unexpected surprises -- no plot twists or anything like that. What you're seeing is the movie on stage," says Sarah Errington, who stars as Rudolph for her second year of the tour. One of Errington's favorite additions is "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," during which, she says, the elves get a chance to shine. "Our elves just kill it in the choreography department -- they do so much fun stuff! So there's stuff like that where obviously in [stop-motion], they aren't doing these amazing dance moves. [But] there are some little homages to choreography that's in the movie, which is really cute."
‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical’
WHEN — 10 a.m., 1 p.m. & 4 p.m. Dec. 2
WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville
COST — $28-$52
INFO — 443-5600, waltonartscenter.org
Some changes were born out of necessity -- the logistics of bringing two-dimensional puppets on screen to life on stage in a theatrical production.
"Obviously, I fly, so that translates a bit differently in person versus in the movie," Errington reveals. But all the special effects, projections and theatricality of the show only enhance the original story, she assures, including the puppets: "The mechanics of that are pretty amazing to watch how the actors manipulate them to create the characters -- like Bumble is this 15-foot-tall puppet, and it's just incredible to see. So it's an interesting artform because it's been expanded, but it's all very familiar."
That familiarity, just like the movie, makes the musical stage version perfect for the whole family. Errington recalls watching the film growing up, as her parents did before her, and even her grandparents having a fondness for the little stop-motion characters. And despite Rudolph's standing as one of the most well-known Christmas films, Errington says one of the joys of her job is when the musical serves as a child's first experience with the story -- or with theater in any form.
"That wonder [and] magic, it's not lost on them," she says. Interacting with kids all over the country and hearing their favorite parts has been an unexpected treat for Errington, like a little girl last year who said Clarice -- the female reindeer with just one song and only a handful of lines -- was her favorite character.
"[Clarice is] very sweet and wonderful, but there's a lot of exciting things that happen," Errington recalls with a laugh of the girl's unconventional favorite. "There's these over-the-top characters and she picks Clarice, and we're like, 'Why do you like Clarice?' and she says, 'I like Clarice because she's the only person who's nice to Rudolph.' And I was like, well, that's a wonderful reason to like a character! So it's really sweet to hear those stories."
With generations falling in love with Rudolph, Hermey and the gang over the last five decades, the cast and production team take great care to bring those exact characters to life on stage. Errington and her cast mates went through extensive audition and training processes to ensure they can give life to the original vision -- as Errington demonstrates with a nasally "In-de-pen-dent!" just as Rudolph declares in the film. The acting, the costumes, the sets and the pure joy of the original collide on stage to live up to the nostalgia of the source material while drawing newcomers into Rudolph's world with the same holiday spirit.
"To see families experiencing it together and enjoying that time together is super-special," Errington enthuses. "To be a part of that for the holiday season is wonderful as an actor. You can only hope that you would be having a job like this; I wouldn't want to be doing anything else."
NAN What's Up on 11/26/2017
Print Headline: Just Like You Remember