BWW Interview: Bella Hicks of RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER at Tobin Center For The Performing Arts
RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER is a Christmas tradition for many around the world. The stop motion animated TV special first aired in 1964. It was a Rankin/Bass Production that had children looking forward to it every year. The show was a reminder to all that no matter who you are, no matter what your differences may seem to be on the outside, we are all the same on the inside. Now, the same story is being brought to life on stage and in theaters all around the country during this Christmas season. As it makes a stop in San Antonio, Texas and the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, BroadwayWorld caught up with Bella Hicks who plays the part of Rudolph in this amazing production.
Do you remember the first time that you ever performed on stage and what it was?
I would say probably the earliest memory I have; I'm sure my parents would say that I performed around the house all the time, but earliest memory I have is when I was three and I did a production of ANNIE. I was playing Annie. I remember distinctly finding the wig really itchy. I did it through a theater program growing up outside of That was probably my earliest memories. It's definitely been a long road. I've been doing this my whole life and can't imagine doing anything else.
Besides RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER, what show has been your favorite show that you've ever been in?
That's hard. The last tour I did was with the production of BEEHIVE which is a sixties girl group musical. I played Janis Joplin and completely opposite ends of the spectrum but so much fun. Just to get to play somebody who is so free on stage and a lot of my roots. I grew up singing R & B and soul and blues and jazz so that's honestly what I first fell in love with in terms of singing. I got to do that and also perform was a dream.
Now you get to be in RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER. A very different character from Janis Joplin. So, when you were a child, did you watch RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER?
Definitely I think the special has been on every year I think since it was created. It's embedded in the Christmas tradition for a lot of people and the holiday tradition generally. My dad remembers the original. It's a multi-generational thing. I've always been very connected to animals, so to me, Rudolph has always been a Christmas icon. I'm a little biased, I'm definitely an animal lover.
Now you're playing Rudolph in this production. What made you decide that you wanted to audition for it, and to want to be part of it?
First and foremost, our director, Dana Solimando; I've worked with her before and she's so fabulous and inspiring especially for a for a woman actress. To be led by such a strong capable woman is so inspiring. That was first and foremost my first connection to the production. But beyond all of that, I actually came in to audition for the ensemble of the show and they called me back for Rudolph. I genuinely didn't have my sights on the lead role. I've always been very active. I grew up doing gymnastics and I was in the circus for a number of years. I've played soccer, I've always been very energetic and acrobatic and very physical and so I think that helps me tap into the part. It was an easy way for me because I love having free rein to be energetic and active and athletic on stage. I think this role has definitely allowed me to do that. I think the best moment for me of the show is that I get to fly in the show as Rudolph and the very ending song, we do a big sing along. I get to fly and view of all the kids in the audience in the aisles dancing and singing. It's probably my favorite part. It's so rewarding.
One thing about the show is the Abominable Snowmonster and I hear that the puppet is really cool. Does it scare the kids in the beginning?
The puppet is pretty spectacular and the man who operates it is really incredible. What's nice is that what starts out as a fear for a lot of the characters in the show and for the kids watching as well becomes a non-issue. If you've watched the story before you know he is accepted into Christmastown and becomes a part of the community by the end. It's nice for the kids that are afraid of him initially. You don't hear them being afraid of him in the end. I think it's a nice arc there. The kids have been engaged throughout the entire show. We hear the responding and reacting and there's so many children in the audience and hopefully also help the other kids and get a bit of a hint from them as to what's going on.
What is the last thing you do before you actually walk out on stage and start the show?
I love that question that's such a great question. There's so much I there's a lot of stretching and the actual costume takes a long time to get into. That takes a while. But right before I go onstage; you can ask but the say all the stage management that watches me every single night I've done this which is I will do three huge leaps. I'll squat as low as I can, jump as high up as I can and do three of them. Then the first thing I do when I run on stage, now you'll know, I do a big jump onto the stage because I just want to enter with the energy that I want to maintain throughout the entire show. That's definitely my immediate right before I enter the stage what I do.
Two shows only in San Antonio at the TOBIN CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS. December 16 & 17, 2019 at 7:30 PM. Check out their website for tickets and seating info.
PHOTO CREDIT: Character Arts