Rudolph the Red Necked Reindeer
The Christmas spirit was palpable in the room this past Saturday at Machine (aka Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts) as Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans presented Rudolph the Red Necked Reindeer.
Delivering a laugh a minute and a lot of heart, the Yuletide send-up parodied pop culture from the 1960s to Taylor Swift, landing even the more obscure jokes with excellent timing.
The basic plot, wonderfully narrated by a MTF Frosty the Snowman played by Keith Orr, offers a funnily-fractured version of Rudolph's life story in which he's a lovable hick with a glowing red neck. (The story is loosely drawn from the famous 1964 stop-motion animated television special by the masters of that genre, Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass.)
Jesse Wood pulls off the lovable title character with a convincing Arkansas accent. While redneck parodies often come off as patronizing or cynical, Wood’s Rudolph plays more as loving tribute to Southern charm.
From the start, Penny Champagne is a scene-stealer as Mrs. Claus, a tacky New Jersey housewife completely fed up with her pothead husband who has a penchant for guns and violence toward squirrels (visualized with wonderful ingenuity). A slobby bum who only works once a year while his elven sweatshop handles the heavy lifting, this Santa is on a downward spiral.
Amidst the biting satire are a series of consistently well-written musical numbers. Delta Miles as the polka-dotted elephant on the Island of Misfit Toys pulls out one of the most surprising vocal performances in a riotous passive aggressive sing-off mid-show with King Glitterpuss, who Jane Pittman expertly pulls off as a slightly less abrasive Rum Tum Tugger. The song’s conclusion was with such thunderous applause from the audience that the beginning of the following scene was briefly delayed until it subsided.
One would be remiss not to mention the show’s most memorable character: Liza Lott as Drew Barrymore. The character is so acerbically on-point, it almost comes off as loving tribute. The subplot surrounding her and her band of E.T. slaves is sidesplitting.
Despite the mayhem, the plot is scripted in such a way that the narrative focus is never lost, and the satirical diversions strengthen the matrix of the story. Underneath the light-hearted laughter is an expert script written by Ryan Landry that displays a strong grasp on how to effectively juggle comedic elements without losing the coherence of the plot.
Another impressive element of the show is the cheeky yet highly effective set design. Three staging areas, along with the airspace above the audience literally being fair game, makes for an immersive experience. The costumes enhance the general hilarity, designed with a fine eye for detail.
When considering festive options for the holiday season, put "Rudolph the Red Necked Reindeer" at the top of the list! Fantastic performances, a genius comedic script, and inspired musical numbers add up to a joyous evening. Even this cynical Grinch left the show with a smile.
Rudolph the Red Necked Reindeer continues through December 23, 2012. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 5pm. At Machine, 1254 Bolyston Street, Boston, MA. For more information, Visit the Gold Dust Orphans Facebook page.