The stage version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” sticks closely to the classic stop-motion TV special that’s been airing over the holidays for 50 years. There’s our hero, the outcast reindeer who runs away when his outsized red nose is discovered; lonely elf Hermey dreaming of becoming a dentist; the misunderstood Abominable Snowman. The difference, says stage Rudolph Lexy Baeza, is you can connect more with people than with clay.
“It’s really the same show, with more choreography and a few more songs,” says Baeza. “But we can give our characters more heart. I can play Rudolph as more sad about being bullied, and the audience can connect more with us. Since we’re alive.”
This isn’t Baeza’s first time playing an animal — or a male character. Her very first role, at 7, was Toto in a children’s theater version of “The Wizard of Oz,” and she toured nationally in “Peter Pan.”
“Playing a young boy is sort of my niche, since I look so young,” the 24-year-old says.
The “Rudolph” team wasn’t looking to cast a female in the lead role; they spent a while searching for a male tenor. But Baeza had a friend in casting and wrote to ask about the part. “They didn’t consider a female, but I submitted a video and they said, “oh my gosh, why haven’t we thought of this before?’” And now they’re only looking for females, for future productions.”
It might be far in the future. Baeza plans to be donning her reindeer costume over the holidays for a long time: “They said I can do it until I’m in a walker, since I look so young.” The rest of the year she’s working at Disneyland performing as a singer in two shows, or at home playing guitar and writing her own music.
When it’s time for “Rudolph” again, Baeza has to be ready to quickly bounce from city to city. She says she naturally has a lot of energy — and “coffee helps.”
“Even if I’m in the worst mood, if I’m tired, hearing the kids out there so excited always gets my energy up,” Baeza says. “It might be they’re first time at the theater, and they’re so loud. When I come out, they’re all like “RUDOLPH!”
If you go:
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical"
Merriam Theater, 250 S. Broad St.
$30 to $85, 215-893-1999