Rudolph

Two Rudolphs will be glowing up the holiday musical production of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Jr.” at Statesboro High School next week. In fact, glowing up can not only mean the glow of the two Rudolphs’ noses. For example, teenagers and older young adults sometimes say a “glow up” is what happens when a one-time young misfit becomes popular. Yet people also speak of having a holiday glow. Hence, this production has multiple glow ups. 

Eddie Frazier, drama teacher and Chair of the Fine Arts Department of Statesboro High School, said, “There are actually two Rudolphs. The first is ‘Young Rudolph’ played by Tina Piltner.  ‘Young Rudolph’ appears in the first couple of scenes to introduce us to the character with the bright red nose. Tina really fits the character especially with her facial expressions!” 

Rudolph
Director and teacher Eddie Frazier watches from the audience area and instructs his students during a recent evening rehearsal at the auditorium at Statesboro High School. Photo by: Ron Baxley, Jr., freelancer

Young Rudolph doesn’t glow up just yet

Frazier said, “Young Rudolph is totally oblivious to his nose and why he’s different, and Tina demonstrates that with her smile and eyes wide open with awe at everything around her.”

The young Rudolph actress has been in several productions. Before this production, she was Chip in “Beauty and the Beast,” The Duchess in “Alice in Wonderland,” and Abu in “Aladdin.”

Frazier said, “She is an extraordinary dancer and has performed in several of our variety shows.”

The director next mentioned the other actress playing the older Rudolph, “For the majority of the show, ‘Rudolph’ is played by Sydney Bonistall. Sydney has been in several shows as well.” 

Before this production, she was Susan in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” and she also played Martha Cratchit in “Scrooge.” 

“Sydney truly brings life to Rudolph!  With her voice and expression, she shows us the character’s frustration about everyone picking on her, and, then, she shows absolute joy when Clarice tells Rudolph he’s cute! Sydney puts so much energy into the role!” Frazier exclaimed.

Misfit toys may one day have a glow-up, too

Many remember the Rankin Bass special the musical is based upon and the Island of Misfit Toys. In recent years, some stores have even carried reproductions of them. However, decades ago, the toys would truly have been seen as odd in a society focused more on conformity. For example, the rhetorical question one of the characters asks, “Who ever heard of a Charlie-in-the-Box?,” does not seem like that big of a deal with the variations of Jack-in-the-Boxes now.

Rudolph
Capture from the program by Lewis Color Lithographers

In fact, Frazier stated his students were clamoring to become misfit toys. 

“The students who are cast as the misfit toys truly wanted to be misfit toys. Not that they are misfits, per se, but they are truly unique students with a lot of talent that like doing different things!” he said.

Of course, other characters reveal themselves to be misfits, including, of course, Rudolph — the main glower-upper.  

As aforementioned, Sydney Bonistall plays Rudolph. Fairly early in the musical, Rudolph’s family, friends, and peers mistreat him. Also, at one point, even Santa Claus himself treats the reindeer with the glowing nose as one who does not fit in and does not belong.

Being the reindeer headbutt of jokes may not be for everybody. Nevertheless, being the underdog (or in this case under-reindeer) can be interesting to an actress or actor.

In fact, Bonistall (Rudolph) said off-stage, ”It is fun playing a misfit.”

Erin Shen, who plays Hermey (the elf dentist who does not fit in because he does not want to do typical elf activities), concurred about it being fun to play a misfit.

“In the beginning, Hermey (as a misfit) is self-conscious… To see how he progresses into self-acceptance is very fun,” Shen said off-stage.

Bonistall and Shen sing a duet as Rudolph and Hermey respectively. They sing this after meeting and becoming friends — comrades in nonconformity.

As their duet goes:

“We’re a couple of misfits
We’re a couple of misfits
What’s the matter with misfits
That’s where we fit in!”  

 

Rudolph
Sydney Bonistall and Erin Shen play Rudolph and Hermey respectively and stand out of costume in front of some garland and a holiday ribbon decorating the front of the stage at the auditorium at Statesboro High School during a recent rehearsal. Photo by: Ron Baxley, Jr., freelancer

Other misfits are in the ensemble. In fact, shown below is the high school cast list:

Rudolph

The show also has children and youth from multiple schools. Here is the other cast list:

Rudolph
Most of the cast of “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Jr.” is shown sitting on stage after a recent rehearsal. Director Eddie Frazier talks to them about their progress in rehearsal, what they did well, and what they need to continue to work on. Photo by: Ron Baxley, Jr., freelancer

A warm glow from a classic show 

The show gives a warm feeling to those who grew up with the Rankin Bass “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” special.

Bonistall (“Rudolph”) said off-stage, “It is definitely an energetic show… It does get me in the Christmas spirit.”

Frazier said, “The script for this show is practically word for word the traditional animated classic. There are a couple of new songs in the show, but it will be very familiar to the audience.”

“It’s a classic story that everyone knows but everyone loves to see each and every year. We have two full houses for the two matinees, almost 2,000 people over two days!” he added.

That figure has now reached over 2,000 for this year with the matinees for regional school children.

“We have 1,081 booked for the matinee on Thursday, and 1,109 booked for the matinee on Friday,” Frazier exclaimed. Both of those matinees are next week. See details about show times toward the end of the article. 

Frazier stated the musical has been basically giving the cast and him a warm holiday glow.

He said, “When we’re singing the music, everyone seems to be cheerful and having a good time!  I’ve stressed to them that I want to make this show simple and fun!  We all tend to make holidays so complicated, and I simply want to celebrate with my troupe and bring a great show for the elementary audiences as well as the public audiences.”

Not only that, but they warm their hearts by giving some proceeds back to the community. 

“20% of all proceeds will go to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society,” Frazier said.

He added, “We simply hope everyone enjoys the show!”

Frazier has shined as SHS teacher for 22 years 

Rudolph
Capture from the program by Lewis Color Lithographers

Frazier has been directing shows at SHS since he took over as drama teacher in 2004. He began directing community theatre productions at the Averitt Center for the Arts in 2012, and “9 to 5 The Musical” was the first show he directed there.

He began teaching at SHS in 2001, starting as a literature teacher. Frazier took over the drama teacher position when his predecessor moved.

“I’ve never taught anywhere but SHS. This is my 22nd year there!” he exclaimed.

Bios on Eddie Frazier as well as the student director are found in an excerpt from the program (Frazier also thanked Robert Cottle and Lisa Muldrew for music direction in the full program; school officials are also being thanked there as well):

Other SHS classes contributed to set design and build 

Visual arts teacher Kimberly Kaiser added a glow up to the sets for the production, and Josh Hall and his construction students are thanked in the program for the construction of the sets.

Rudolph
Shown are some of the sets for the show with Erin Shen (Hermey) in front of them. This includes the elf work table her character has tried to work so hard but to no avail in front of the workshop windows. Shen expresses frustration as Hermey, who wants to be a dentist and not a typical elf. The snow mountain is used in several scenes. The aformentioned Kaiser, Hall, and the students worked on the sets. Photo by: Ron Baxley, Jr., freelancer

Behind the scenes folks’ bios can be found in this excerpt from the program:

Rudolph
Capture from the program by Lewis Color Lithographers
Rudolph
Yukon Cornelius (played by Annalia Small, who also directed the choreography) meets Hermey and Rudolph (played by Erin Shen and Sydney Bonistal respectively) in a recent non-dress-rehearsal of the production. Photo by: Ron Baxley, Jr., freelancer

How, when, and where you can show up to the glow up

Public performances are Saturday, December 10 at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, December 11 at 3:00 p.m.  Tickets are available online only. They are $10 for adults and $5 for students; remember that 20% of proceeds will go to charity. Buy your tickets online at:  https://gofan.co/app/school/GA11899.

Sponsors for the 2022-2023 Statesboro High School Theater Department season are as follows (and are also noted in the program): Lewis Color Lithographers; Ogeechee OBGYN: Women’s Health Specialists; Ogeechee Technical College Dual Enrollment program; The Florist of Statesboro; Southern Pottery & Art Studio; Statesboro Cardiology; Advanced Audio/Visual Rentals; Statesboro Ear, Nose, Throat & Sinus Center; Parker Engineering; and CORKS (since 2004). 

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Ron Baxley, Jr., who is new to Grice Connect, has been a freelance (and at times full time) journalist for over a decade total and has been a creative writer almost his entire life. Though across the border...