Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical is tells the classic Rankin/Bass story that first aired in 1964. It has aired every year since, making it the longest running holiday television special in history.
The musical version flies into The Chicago Theatre Nov. 17-20 for nine shows.
Performer Wesley Edwards plays Hermey, an elf who longs for a different life. As far as reindeer games, he plays on our team, being an out performer. Get to know the dentist with a heart of gold in this interview.
Windy City Times: Talk about your history first.
Wesley Edwards: I am from Louisville, Kentucky. I studied musical theater at Point Park University in Pittsburgh. I visited Chicago often because I had friends that went to Roosevelt [University]. It is a near and dear city to me.
WCT: What led you to auditioning for Rudolph?
WE: I was out in Los Angeles when I saw the audition notice for Rudolph. It has always been a classic for me and something to watch during the holidays. When I saw the notice I really wanted to be a part of it.
I have always been compared to Hermey, [because of] my voice, throughout the years. It was something I thought I had a good shot at. I went in auditioned and got the call. I was super-pumped that they were making a live show being so close to the original. I'm very lucky.
WCT: Describe Hermey.
WE: Hermey is with all the other elves up in Christmas Town. He feels different than the other elves because he knows there is something else out there in the world. His goal is to be a dentist. Many people would instead go for making toys but this makes him unique and special. He is ridiculed for wanting to be a dentist.
When he leaves Christmas Town he meets up with Rudolph, who is also ridiculed but it is because of his bright nose. They both have a lot in common. They spark up a friendship. Through time they realize that it's okay to be a misfit, that these are the things that make us great. That is how they end up saving the day.
WCT: It is a classic story but the bullying is still current.
WE: I think that is what makes this show so special. From 1964 until now there are things taught in the show that are more relevant today than ever. They have really stood the test of time.
WCT: There have been campy versions to this show where Rudolph was gay.
WE: Right. It is such a relatable thing for the LGBT crowd. In today's society it is so cool that there can be that lesson in it as well. I don't know if that was their intention with the original but it has a universal message.
The show is against bullying so we try to make that voice heard. We see the kids after the show and it is so cool that we can translate this message to them.
WCT: Have you met Paul Soles, who did the original voice?
WE: Yes, I did up in Toronto. There are not too many of the original people around. He also did the Spider-man cartoon and a lot of voiceover stuff. We met the original Mrs. Donner and the son of the original Bumble as well.
That was a highlight of last year for me.
WCT: What does the show look like?
WE: Audiences can expect to be completely transported into that world. There are projections, sets and big costumes. I like to compare it to a lunchbox coming to life. Over the years we have had a voiceover coach come work with us all. We really nail those voices.
Bumble the abominable snow monster is 18 feet tall. They want him to be taller than Rudolph and the elves. Everything is bigger than life. Those puppets are so cool. They really did their job recreating this classic.
WCT: Do you enjoy the traveling with the show?
WE: I am so excited about Chicago. I really like towns that embrace the Christmas spirit. We open in Chicago, also go to Dallas, then Madison Square Garden.
WCT: Any plans after that for the holiday season?
WE: This is the first time I won't be on the road. I am looking forward to some family time. I have been fortunate to have my boyfriend in the show and on tour with me. Anthony Marone plays Charlie-in-the-box and one of the elves.
I am very lucky to have my partner in crime with me and we have been together for six years. It is really cool to have a bit of family with me along the way.
Visit TheChicagoTheatre.com or RudolphTheMusical.com for tickets .