Landry joyfully spares no one in Orphans’ Rudolph
Jesse Wood wows
Frosty the Snowman has transitioned to Sharon the Snow woman complete with carrot nose and coal nipples. Santa Clause likes drugs and yens for a hunky Arkansas –accented Rudolph. Jewish blonde Diane Clause wears gold lame and Manolo heels. Has the Christmas story entered an alternate Twilight Zone? No, the 1964 Arthur Rankin Jr.-Jules Bass animated television classic has simply entered the Ryan Landry and Gold Dust Orphans world of hilarious outrageousness and turned into a madcap parody entitled Rudolph the Red Necked Reindeer.
Author Landry has taken his cue from the recent election, the Romneys and even Steven Spielberg’s E.T. Not surprisingly Thurston and Lovie Howell have kept Santa and Diane out of the exclusive Iceberg Club, but Mrs. Clause is ready to blackmail the Boston blue bloods for entry with the knowledge that the Howell’s son Rudolph bears a glaring birth defect—a red neck that glows like a neon sign outside of Hooter’s. As Rudolph becomes a reindeer-in-training, he bonds with a sidekick named Herbie , a would–be proctologist. While Herbie would like their bromance to become a real relationship, a romantic named Clarice threatens to win Rudolph’s heart.
The blissfully silly plot also involves an oversized creature called the Abominable Icycle Snow Monster Lady, a career-weary Drew Barrymore with a crew of E.T. ‘s leading her sleigh and an Island of Dangerous Toys. Will the Ozark Rudolph lead Santa’s sleigh but fend off the gun-toting druggie Santa’s advances? Will the Howells keep minorities out of the Iceberg club? Will Thurston Howell find same-sex diversion at truck stops? Director James P. Byrne—who doubles as reindeer Comet-—makes all the answers rollicking and keeps the Gold Dust Orphans’ musical Rudolph both gender-bending, tuneful and (unlike the television version) for adults.
There are several standouts in the uniformly spirited cast. Jesse Wood, in his Gold Dust Orphans debut, catches the charm, simplicity and sexiness of Rudolph. Penny Champayne makes the most of Mrs. Clause’s sublimely bitchy dialogue with Santa. Liza Lott wonderfully camps up Drew Barrymore. Keith Orr delivers a heartily vivid narration as Sharon. The showstopper is Delta Miles’ gospel belt as measles-infected Elephant on the inspired Island of Dangerous Toys. Grace Carney’s sweet Clarice, Olive Another’s sympathetic and vulnerable Herbie, Gene Dante’s laughably haughty Thurston, Jane Pittman’s buffoonish King Glitterpuss and Tim Lawton’s violent and manipulative Santa are equally delightful.
Gold Dust Orphans designers are in top form. Scott Martino matches Mrs. Clause’s gold lame with such other splashy couture as Lovie Howell’s radiant blue robe –with Landry a hoot while wearing it. Windsor Newton’s amusing scenic representations complement the comedy both in front of and to the sides of the audience. Sound designer Roger Moore makes sure the Monster Lady is properly boisterous. Toy squirrels make a terrifically inventive appearance of their own.
Landry, Gold Dust Orphans and their exuberant ensemble make Rudolph the Red Necked Reindeer a grown-up laugh fest that should become a winter tradition for theatergoers of all persuasions.