BWW Review: RUDOLPH at Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre
On Sunday, November 24, I had the pleasure of seeing RUDOLPH performed at the Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre in Bridgeport, CT. This is my favorite of the three Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre Christmas shows I have seen. Written by Phil Hill and directed by Frank Root, it brings comedy, familiar music, and an excellent cast of six, all of whom are in roles that showcase their incredible talents.
Andrea Pane who excels in detective roles, masterfully shows his acting versatility in this very different role as a high-strung elf names Jingles. Andrea Pane makes his voice high-pitched, and his mannerisms quirky to make Jingles a convincing stressed out, yet highly entertaining character. He is the one who breaks the fourth wall the most, asking the children questions. I was amused to hear in this particular audience that the answer to whether they could keep a secret was a resounding "No." It almost made me wish the show was Peter Pan and they were being asked whether they believed in fairies. Regardless, Andrea Pane and the cast smoothly went on, the dialogue not pending on an affirmative answer from the children.
Jason Parry continues with his impressive performances, this time as the lead role of Rudolph, the red nosed-reindeer. A twist in this adaptation of the story is that while some of the other reindeer make fun of his red nose, his anxiety does not lie with his nose, but with his fear anticipating being the lead reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh, fear stemming from a lack of experience, an inflated misunderstanding of the urgency of the task ahead of him, and bullying from the other reindeer.
Sara Winant is wonderful as Cupid, the reindeer who is kind and loving to Rudolph. Cupid is a positive example of someone who lovingly welcomes strangers, strives to bring out the best in those around her, and has the courage and confidence to stand up to bullies, a positive role model all around. Furthermore, Sara Winant has a powerful and moving singing voice, showcased on Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out For A Hero."
Margaret Buzak brings the role of Dasher to life, as the central antagonist, the queen bee of the reindeer bullies. Having been the traditional leader of the reindeer in flight, she feels threatened by the notion that Rudolph, with his nose so bright, would usurp her role and steal her thunder as the one to guide Santa's sleigh.
Casey Walsh, who recently excelled in the supporting role of Lisa in Mamma Mia! continues to thrive on stage with a somewhat similar role as Vixen whose personality is first shown in greeting her friend with exaggerated excitement, like Lisa does in Mamma Mia! Casey Walsh gets to show off her own talent even greater, however, in this role as Vixen. She is flawless in her heavy New Yawk accent, New York attitude, and mannerisms. Vixen initially comes across as a valley girl from New York, soon showing deliberate arrogance, and then falling in as a bully under the influence of Dasher.
Kaylin Weller steals the show as Prancer, the valley girl reindeer, the flightiest of the flying reindeer, with a personality similar to Karen from Mean Girls. Prancer seems like a kind reindeer in her initial interactions with Jingles, and then after meeting up with Vixen, but soon shows her group-think bullying potential when under the influence of Dasher. Kaylin Weller is spot-on with her voice, expressions, and mannerisms. This role showcases her talents, even greater than her role last spring in Snow White, further showing Downtown Cabaret Theatre audiences that this actress who has previously played numerous ensemble roles at Downtown Cabaret Theatre has what is takes to thrive in leading roles.
While some traditional Christmas songs like "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," and Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run," appear in this show, you can also expect some adaptations of songs by Queen, Slade, Lenny Kravitz, and Kenny Loggins. I was surprised to also hear a high quality song that I didn't previously know. It is called "Movin' On Up" (no, not the Jefferson's theme) but a song recorded by Primal Scream in 1991, which I discovered even generated a cover by one of my all-time favorite groups, Third Day.
A set highlight is a projected winter scene including falling snow.
The positive virtues of forgiveness, humility, self-confidence, courage, and teamwork are extolled in this show. The audience laughed at the humor and properly refrained from laughing at the bullying and irreverent speech of the bullying reindeer, suggesting that the intended messages were well conveyed by this stellar cast.
I highly recommend RUDOLPH which is scheduled to continue to run at the Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre in Bridgeport, CT, through December 29, 2019. For times and tickets, please go to https://dtcab.com/show/rudolph/.