Thanksgiving is more than a week away, but as television commercials and store décor will show you, the winter holiday season is in full swing. Chicago is embracing the Christmas spirit with the Emerald City Theatre and First Stage’s new production of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical, which opened Nov. 14 at the Broadway Playhouse. The show is a live action stage adaptation of the classic stop-motion film from 1964, the longest running television special to date, and stars Anu Nagpal (Speech '99), who goes by her stage name of Arya Daire.
“The charm and heart of that special is really apparent in the show,” said Daire, who plays Rudolph’s mother, Mrs. Donner.
Despite singing since childhood, though, Daire didn’t study acting during her undergraduate career. Originally coming to Northwestern from Oakbrook, Ill. to study economics, she graduated in 1999 with a degree in Film and English Literature, her only credits being a short term in the Music for Non-Majors program and a Studio 22 film her senior year. After three years of post-grad work in New York City, she moved to Switzerland and pursued a law degree, but knew she hadn’t found the right career choice just yet. “I decided to give myself a year to train,” Daire said. “And at the end of that year, if I would buy a ticket to see me, then I’d give it a shot.” She returned to Chicago and has been performing ever since.
Though her journey to acting may have been longer and more winding than her that of co-star, Daire appreciates the time it took. “My path has been all over the place,” said Daire. “I had proven to myself that I could accomplish a lot of different things, so I gave myself permission to be happy.”
She added that her time at Northwestern helped her beyond theater training.
“I think college in general always prepares you for living and working together with people. I got a lot of life experience and different professional experience,” Daire said. She was drawn to the Rudolph production when she saw the chance to help bring the classic tale to life. While translating stop-motion to the stage proved challenging, Daire said that the original score, detailed set design, elaborate costumes and live performance all come together to recreate the timeless magic Rudolph has brought to television sets for almost 50 years.
“The moment you walk in the theater, you get a very warm Christmas feeling,” said Daire. “It's kind of unbeatable.”
Daire also said that the production emnodies a holiday spirit that still resonates in audiences of all ages.
“You can expect a nostalgic feeling, and a very simple story that speaks to us today.” Daire said. “It’s not a Hollywood movie, but it remains so true and simple.”
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical runs until Jan. 5 at Broadway Playhouse. For ticket information and further details, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.