'Rudolph' brings deer, er, dear love home to Colorado

Rudolph Jamie Mills Ben Burch
Jamie Mills and Colorado native Ben Burch, who met in Greeley, are coming home this week to perform at the Buell Theatre. 

When Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical lands on the Buell Theatre stage Dec. 16, Santa and Mrs. Claus won’t be the only lovebirds in the house. The ensemble features Colorado Springs native Ben Burch and his wife, Jamie Mills, who met as students at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. The couple have been together for nine years and will celebrate their third anniversary on Dec. 28.

We caught up with the Colorado-bound couple to talk about performing in the holiday musical, which is based on the stop-action TV classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that first aired on NBC in 1964. It has been telecast every year for 52 years, making it the longest-running Christmas TV special in history. Now it comes to Denver as a family friendly stage adaptation. 

We caught up with the Colorado-bound couple to talk about life on the road and performing together at the Buell Theatre Dec. 16-18.

Rudolph. Jamie Mills. Ben Burch.

John Moore: How did you meet in Greeley?

Ben Burch: We were both in the musical theatre program at UNC. I was a sophomore and Jamie was a freshman. We first saw each other at an audition for The Rocky Horror Musical, where she was wearing a beautiful pink dress and I was wearing silver pleather pants. I mean, who wouldn’t be confident in silver pleather pants? So, I introduced myself and struck up a conversation. That night I told one of my roommates I had found the woman I was going to marry.

John Moore: How did the opportunity to perform together in Rudolph come about?

Jamie Mills: Ben auditioned for the show in the summer of 2015, and he performed in it last year by himself. The entire time he kept saying how wonderful it would be to go out on tour together. So, when the opportunity arose this past summer, we jumped at it. It was a long audition process for me, but Ben helped me every step of the way. Sometimes, if you work hard enough, the best of things can happen. 

Rudolph. Jamie Mills. Ben Burch. Photo by George Garvin PhotographyJohn Moore: What do you consider to be your home?

Ben Burch: We live in Los Angeles now. And while our home base may change because of the nomadic lifestyle of the traveling actor, Colorado will always hold a special place in my heart. What can I say? I bleed orange and blue. 

What is the secret to performing on the road and maintaining a successful marriage?

Jamie Mills: We always tell people that communication is the most important part of a marriage. We’ve both done a tour without the other, and we agree that it’s harder for the person left at home. On tour, you’re with new people and in a new place almost every day. It’s important to remember that your significant other doesn’t have that and to try to share all of your experiences with them. Time differences also can be hard. You have to remain focused and know that your separation will only last for the length of the contract, but your love and relationship ARE forever. 

(Photo above and right: The 2013 wedding of Jamie Mills and Ben Burch. Photo by George Garvin Photography.)

John Moore: How important is Christmas in your household? 

Ben Burch: It is THE MOST IMPORTANT! Christmas is our favorite holiday. Both of our families have very different traditions, and we are still in the process of picking and choosing what we will keep. If I had my way, we’d start celebrating and decorating in October. But Jamie has a very specific timeline. There’s Halloween, then her birthday, then Thanksgiving, and the Friday after Thanksgiving we can start celebrating Christmas. But we started Rudolph rehearsals in October, so we were singing Christmas music before Halloween this year!

John Moore: Everyone knows the story of Rudolph. Tell us about the theatergoing experience, and why families should add it to their holiday plans.

Jamie Mills: It’s a live-action version of what you’ve seen on your TV screen for so many years, and it’s the most charming family event that you could imagine. Parents and grandparents who have seen the movie will love passing the tradition on to the newer generations in the family. Kids will delight in seeing Rudolph grow from a young buck into the hero of Christmas right before their eyes. Seeing the audiences’ faces at the end of the show while Rudolph is flying above our heads is truly a joy for all the actors. 

Rudolph. Ben Burch. John Moore: How many family and friends are coming to see you perform?

Ben Burch: Every family member I have in Colorado is coming to a performance, and some are coming from as far away as Washington. Friends from high school who have never seen me perform are coming. College classmates who have started their own families are bringing their kids. Needless to say, the Buell Theatre will be packed with fans of Yukon Cornelius, Mrs. Donner and Dolly. 

(Photo above and right: Ben Burch as Yukon Cornelius, with Hermey. Photo by Character Arts.)

Ben, since you grew up in Colorado Springs – what will it mean for you to be performing on the Buell Theatre stage? 

Ben Burch: It has been five years since I last performed in Colorado and 10 since I performed in Colorado Springs. My nephew and nieces have never seen me on stage. The Buell is a beautiful theater, and I can’t believe it’s where I get to share my passion for live performance with them. Not bad for a kid from the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center to make the jump up to the gorgeous Buell

John Moore: What’s your message for Colorado in advance of your return? 

Ben Burch: I’m back … and go, Broncos!

John Moore: You close here in Denver on Dec. 18. So how excited will you be to be spending Christmas together … in Los Angeles?

Ben Burch: Not as excited as we will be to fly back to Colorado the day after! 

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical

• Dec 16-18
• Buell Theatre
• 7:30 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
• ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: 2 p.m. Dec. 17
• Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
• Groups: Call 303-446-4829 

Photo gallery: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical

To see more production photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos courtesy of Character Arts. 

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