Pros: The interaction with the younger members of the audience, keeping them entertained and laughing at all times whilst still delivering an engaging theatrical experience for the adults.
Cons: The 3+ rating means you must be prepared to have tiny people appear suddenly from all sides around you.
The Ballad of Rudy is a 3+ Christmas children’s show running in Chelsea Theatre. Developed by the children’s theatre company Goblin, the play tells the story of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, who doesn’t just have a red nose, but an interest and passion for music that sets him off on a journey in search of his sound, the meaning of Jazz, and ultimately the northern lights.
The play starts and Mrs. Hoo, Rudolph’s sleigh teacher played by Wendy Paver, comes on stage. She explains that is the day the reindeer who will pull the sleigh for Santa are chosen. She tells her young student Rudolph, or Rudy, played by Dan Bottomley that he must work hard if he wants to be one of them. Rudy is unsure of this; perhaps he doesn’t want to be like the rest of the herd and do what he is expected to. Lost in thought he runs into the Jazz Penguin, played by Claude Deppa, who is a spot-on version of Louis Armstrong, voice, mannerism and trumpet included! He introduces Rudy to music and Jazz, and they both get playing together. The Jazz penguin calls Fitz (Wendy Paver once again), a puppet fox, to join the band with her groovy vocals. Rudy learns that Jazz is about being happy and sad, without the sad, and having and not having. Not sure of understanding this, he sets off again. He meets Ol’ Polar Bear Joe (Deppa), some squeaky puffins and a whale (both puppets), and Nina the walrus (Paver), an old jazz star singer. Rudy discovers a myriad of instruments and sounds along the way, and of course the moral of the story, be true to who you are.
The story was extremely ingenious, taking themes children have in mind constantly throughout the Christmas season, and giving a fantastic jazzy musical twist to it all. There were instruments scattered and hidden all around the stage: a bass, sax, electric guitar, classic guitar, trumpet, flute, ukulele… and a table that turned out to be a piano! If you can think of an instrument, it was there. Deppa and Paver switched from owl to walrus and from penguin to polar bear in seconds, using cleverly puffy robes, feathered belts and hats, suit and tie for the Jazz penguin. There were white lamps and icy stalactites that successfully transported the members of the audience to the North Pole.
Overall I think this is the perfect Christmas treat for the whole family. The cast kept interacting with the youngest members of the audience from minute one; they played with them, asked them to sing and by the end of the play had both adults and children on their feet dancing and shouting animals noises. Although the show is only an hour long, that can be years in three-year-old terms, but they kept the grip wonderfully, as showed by the many children around me laughing and singing constantly. Even the lights were usually on, avoiding the desire to nap that I have seen in other Christmas family shows.
For the adults, do not panic, there is entertainment for you too! The musical talent on stage was absolutely fantastic, the show had some visually stunning moments, particularly when Rudy meets the whale and sees the northern lights. There are even some puns hidden in the dialogues that may go unnoticed by children, but will have you laughing. Congratulations to Bottomley, Deppa and Paver for delivering such an outstanding experience for the family!
Author: Matt Borgatti
Director: Andrew Barry
Box Office: 0207 3521 967
Booking Link: http://www.chelseatheatre.org.uk/the-ballad-of-rudy/
Booking Until: 22nd December 2013