REVIEW: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer @ Casa Manana by Onstage NTX

REVIEW: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer @ Casa Manana by Onstage NTX image

By: Jan Farrington

Looking for a holly, jolly holiday outing?

Start right here…especially if you have some little folks in your life.

Casa Manana’s bright and bouncy Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a fun-for-all, from the bright (and tall!) Christmas trees in the lobby (Count the ornaments! Stand still for a picture!) to the clap-along at the finale.

Based on the original 1930s story by Chicago adman Robert May, a popular song from the 1940s (yep, Gene Autry made it famous), and a 1960s TV special with Burl Ives, Casa’s Rudolph was adapted by Robert Penola, with music and lyrics by Johnny Marks. Throw in an Abominable Snowman, a wandering prospector, and a baby reindeer who’s a little too “lit”—and this quirky Christmas tale comes together into a candy-colored confection that keeps the kids wide-eyed and happy.

Director/choreographer Jeremy Dumont pulls together a talented cast with plenty of great vocal and dance skills. Anchoring the show is Braxton Johnson as Sam, a big, friendly Elf who sets up the plot and keeps it moving in story and song. He’s a standout both in solo numbers and with the ensemble, along with Zach Sutton’s Yukon Cornelius, the miner with a heart of “Silver and Gold.”  Parker Gray as young Rudolph and Morgan Haney as Hermey (a discontented, wannabee dentist elf) provide the tart in the sweet, their edgier, high-tone voices pulling off the funny but plaintive song “We’re a Couple of Misfits.” They are both a nice, lesson-teaching mix of worry and bravery, and the “be true to yours-ELF” moral goes down sweet and easy.

Ensemble numbers never lag, and the dancing actors pull off a lot of amusing bits onstage as they fling presents, hammer toys, and generally raise the roof. Dance Captain Michael Anthony Sylvester kept catching my eye (in a coat borrowed from Hamilton?). And it might be enough to say that Cara Statham Serber, who’s played many a lead role in Casa’s “grownup” musicals, is one of the ensemble, as is veteran local favorite Randy Pearlman. Bell-voiced Arianna Hardaway, new to Casa, scores as Rudolph’s “deer” Clarice. Deanna Ott is true-blue as Rudolph’s caring Mom, who loves him with or without The Nose.

Music director James McQuillen keeps the digital music and live singers in admirable balance. Sam Rushen’s projections and lighting are impeccable, and Kimberly Powers’ nimble set keeps the action flowing. Tammy Spencer’s costumes catch the stage lights and feel amusingly eclectic, as do Catherine Petty-Rogers’ hair/wig/makeup choices. A crew must have built the Snowman; the monster has enough big teeth to give the kids a shiver—and a laugh when “he” turns out to be something of a sham. (Shh! Don’t give it away!)

And of course, there’s plenty of holiday stuff to see, and buy, in the lobby before the show and at intermission. Be warned: it’s all pretty dang adorable.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer runs through December 23; tickets at