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Rudolph Shines

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Santa with the Reindeer family Santa with the Reindeer family

Before Rudolph leads Santa's sleigh this year, he is on a 50-city tour showing off why his red nose saved Christmas. One stop on his tour was Austin, where he delighted an audience consisting mostly of pre-teens and their parents.


This is the 4th consecutive year for the theatrical tour, which is based on the 1964 television special.


Rudolph with Yukon and HermeyRudolph with Yukon and HermeyThe theme of misfits runs through the production. Rudolph's pal in this regard is Hermey, played to perfection by actor Nick Ley. It seems curious that the role of Rudolph was played by a female, but it behooves me to say (pun intended) Sarah Errington offered a perfectly believeable young reindeer. The message that misfits have a place in society is a powerful one, which hopefully resonates with many of the young people this production is primarily designed for.


The adventures of Rudolph and Hermey with Yukon, a hard-bitten gold and silver miner played by Ben Burch, is a major element of the production. The music during his appearances, which includes a battle with a giant snow monster, seemed a bit overpowering to me and perhaps too loud for all those young ears in the audience. His bellowing dialogue was sometimes lost in the din.


A thin Santa was ably played by James Gruessing, but changing his character from the iconic plump Santa struck me as odd. Shouldn't all those kids in the audience be shown what they expect to see?


Kudos to the puppeteers who handled everything from small, cute creatures to the 12-foot Abominable Snowman. This nod to the stop-action character of the '64 show was especially appreciated by the parents in the audience.


Quibbles aside, the production was flawless, and combined with a dazzling suite of musical tunes that concluded with audience participation in the song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, this was a great way to kick off the Christmas season in Austin.


For upcoming performances in other cities, visit the website for the musical:




Clifford Cunningham

Dr. Clifford Cunningham is a planetary scientist. He earned his PhD in the history of astronomy at the University of Southern Queensland, and has undergraduate degrees in science and ancient history from the University of Waterloo. In 2014 he was named a contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica. He is the author of 14 books on asteroids and the history of science. In 1999 he appeared on the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Asteroid 4276 was named in his honor in 1990 by the International Astronomical Union based on the recommendation of its bureau located at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

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