A joyful ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ from City of Fairfax Theatre

City of Fairfax Theatre Company brings the classic television special to life in their production of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The storybook charm and childlike wonder were front and center for the duration of the show.

CFTC transformed the upstairs space at Vienna Baptist Church into a cozy Christmas viewing experience, complete with a square proscenium that reminded me of watching the television special in real-time. Director/Choreographer Sierra Hoffman and Music Director Luke Hemmingson created opportunities for each performer to shine while working together. I was especially impressed by the young performers in the cast — from the inhabitants of the Island of Misfit Toys to Santa’s elves.

Birdie Thomas as Clarice and Sawyer Cable as Rudolph in ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.’ Promotional photo by Heather Regan.

The first to enter the scene is Sam, played by Chris Dockins. Dockins’ mannerisms and gentle baritone voice were friendly and engaging — ideal qualities for the narrator of this classic tale. The inhabitants of Christmas Town soon joined in and the story began to unfold. Sawyer Cable was wonderful as Rudolph. Birdie Thomas as Clarice has a lovely singing voice and sweet disposition — perfect for the role of the female reindeer. The Bumble puppet was performed by two actors, Bella Rafferty and Caraline Senra. Rafferty and Senra worked together as the larger-than-life monster — eventually melting our hearts after his toothache was fixed.

Rhett Thomas as Hermey, Jack Lockrem as Yukon Cornelius, and Sawyer Cable as Rudolph in ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.’ Promotional photo by Heather Regan.

Christmas Town soon joined in and the story began to unfold. Sawyer Cable was wonderful as Rudolph. Birdie Thomas as Clarice has a lovely singing voice and sweet disposition — perfect for the role of the female reindeer. The Bumble puppet was performed by two actors, Bella Rafferty and Caraline Senra. Rafferty and Senra also worked together as the larger-than-life monster — eventually melting our hearts after his toothache was fixed.

The comedic standouts for me were Rhett Thomas as Hermy and Jack Lockrem as Yukon Cornelius. Both actors fully committed to their roles as the classic characters. Thomas as the doe-eyed dentist had the audience rooting for him as he traveled to the Island of Misfit Toys (or “Myisfyit” as he called it.) Lockrem as the larger-than-life Prospector kept the kids in the front section giggling — some even helping him with his line after trying to strike gold: “Ah… nothin’.”

The whimsical costumes designed by Lori Crockett were reminiscent of the stop-motion TV film without being carbon copies.  I especially enjoyed the details of Sam’s costume as a snowman — from the snowflake brocade and green vest to the facial hair made of felt.  I also liked the reindeer costumes with hair and makeup by Christine Conor and Mary Frances Dini respectively. The designs were unique for each reindeer while still having a unified look to lead Santa’s sleigh.

The cutout-style set pieces enhanced the experience of watching the special come to life. From the Bumble puppet to the Island of Misfit Toys, the props created by Jack Rollins worked hand in hand with Crockett’s costumes to tell the story. The movable walls and platforms helped create practical visual effects while leaning into our suspension of belief. My favorite effect was during the snowstorm — the elves literally went flying across the stage with the help of Amelia Marsh dressed in all black, flipping Juliette Fellows and then carrying her offstage as if she were caught in the wind. The pre-recorded music was balanced well with the actor’s mics, and any sound issue that occurred was quickly resolved.

Ryan and Mindy Thomas as Santa and Mrs. Claus in ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.’ Promotional photo by Heather Regan.

This production of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a family-friendly and joyful time for audiences of all ages. I’m looking forward to seeing more from the City of Fairfax Theatre Company in 2023!

Running Time: 60 minutes.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer played December 8 to 11, 2022, presented by the City of Fairfax Theatre Company performing at Vienna Baptist Church, 541 Marshall Rd. SW, Vienna, VA.

The program for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is online here.

Crew: Directed by Sierra Hoffman, Produced by Maggie Shircliff, Music Directed by Luke Hemmingson, Stage Managed by Julie Lee, Choreographed by Sierra Hoffman, Lighting Design by Scott Graham, Sound Design by David Britt, Property Master was Jack Rollins, Costume Designed by Lori Crokett, Makeup Designed by Mary Frances Dini, Hair Designed by Christine Connor

Cast in order of Appearance: Sam the Snowman played by Chris Dockins, Santa Claus played by Ryan Thomas, Mrs. Claus played by Mindy Thomas, Elves played by Francesca Busso, Beckett Cable, Eve Fellows, Juliette Fellows, Lana Ironroad, Mikayla Ironroad, Rowan Manning, and Samantha Regan, Donner played by Sarah Riddell, Mrs. Donner played by Katie Carter, Rudolph played by Sawyer Cable, Hermey played by Rhett Thomas, Boss Elf played by Cody Yeatman, Fireball/Toy played by Parker Kujawski, Coach Comet played by Marielle Baker, Clarice played by Birdie Thomas, Yukon Cornelius played by Jack Lockrem, Bumble played by Bella Rafferty and Caraline Senra, King Moonracer/Mrs. Comet played by Shalon Ironroad, Charlie/Buck played by Catherine Cassidy, Doll/Buck played by Elena Romero-Collette, Spotted Elephant/Buck played by Sabrina Revand, Train/Dasher/Buck played by Max Bergman, Bird/Dancer/Buck played by Sarah Gambaccini, Cowboy/Prancer/Buck played by Faith Brosnan, Toy/Vixen/Buck played by Imogene Sigler, Nutcracker/Cupid/Buck played by Amelia Marsh, Plane/Blitzen/Buck played by Ida Petersen.