Rudolph reincarnated through musical featuring CCPA grad
By Madelyn Olsen
At this most wonderful time of the year, the place to be is the Broadway Playhouse, where the holiday classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical” comes to life, featuring Chicago College of Performing Arts graduate Amanda Giles.
The show is a visual replica of the original animated television special, bringing the beloved reindeer up close and personal for people of all ages to enjoy.
When Rudolph and his fellow misfit Hermey, an elf whose only desire is to be a dentist, meet up with Yukon Cornelius, a cheerful prospector hungry for silver and gold, and land on the Island of Misfit Toys, they meet a gang of unloved toys.
The assortment of toys include a Charlie-in-the-Box, a spotted elephant, a doll, a cowboy riding an ostrich and a bird that doesn’t fly but swims. All of these toys are excellently portrayed by puppeteers donned in all white from head to toe in order to blend into the scenery.
This brilliant technique maintains the sizing proportions between Rudolph, Hermey, Yukon Cornelius and the toys. The technique is adapted from Bunraku, the traditional Japanese theatre form where the detailed hand puppets would stand out against the actors dressed in all black.
The woman behind the Birdfish, Giles, offered some insight on the process.
“[It’s] a different experience because the entire show I’m covered,” Giles said. “Every part of me is in this white outfit … [and] preparing is a lot of voice work, which is the main mode of transforming [from ensemble to Birdfish]. … It’s physically grueling, so I have to do a lot of stretching.”
Giles graduated from CCPA last May and shared how important her time there as as a performer was.
“[CCPA is] the thing that has made me the performer I am today,” she said. “Before coming [to CCPA] I had taken classes and done shows but never been in an environment that allowed me to excel every day. … It is 100 percent the reason I am where I am.”
Giles’ favorite scene from the show is one that captivates many audience members’ hearts with the song “Silver and Gold,” which functions as a sing-a-long portion in the production.
“I watched the animated special as a kid all the time, and that song is the one I remember the most,” Giles said.
Other than the visual replication of the animated special — with impeccable costuming and staging — the cast, which features many children, is vocally skilled as well.
This production is the perfect warm cup of holiday cheer to get you through the bitterly cold Chicago winter. Whether you go with friends or family, it is sure to speak to the misfit in everyone.
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical” will run until Jan. 5 at the Broadway Playhouse. For more information visit broadwayinchicago.com.