In 2003, Billy Bob Thorton mesmerized audiences with his flawless portrayal of the love-able drunken deadbeat, Willie, in Bad Santa. In a daring endeavor, Lola’s Playhouse took on the challenge of adapting the Christmas classic from the big screen to the stage.
Lola, the owner and director of the local Hollywood theater, took a chance on casting the fresh-faced Rudy as the title role. “I had my doubts about casting Rudy as Willie. The role is extremely demanding, both physically and emotionally. Willie’s sexual prowess is crucial to the character. Rudy doesn’t even have balls, so how could he accurately portray such a carnally demanding role? Well, let me tell you, that dog proved me wrong. I learned a valuable lesson about not judging actors on the size of their balls. It’s their emotional balls that count. And in Rudy’s case, his emotional balls are huge.”
Jude, Rudy’s feline castmate who portrayed the elf Marcus, had nothing but praise for his fellow thespian. “Rudy throws up and shits on the floor at least twice a day. Willie’s are big shoes to fill, but there was no doubt in my mind that Rudy could handle the role.”
Lola continued, “Deep consideration for casting the role of Marcus, the elf, was vital to the success of our stage adaptation. Obviously, Billy Bob Thorton and Tony Cox set very high standards for future actors looking to take on the duo’s intricate dynamic. Ultimately, we decided to go with Jude. Despite being rather docile, that cat embodied the unhappy elf once the stage lights hit his face. It’s like he hated that elf costume just as much as Marcus did”
“Their hatred and discontent for one another was palpable. Rudy and Jude had great chemistry.” Lola remarked.
Lola excitedly exclaimed that she had always wanted to take on a stage production of Bad Santa. “My home life has been a bit tumultuous, and I’ve always been very open and honest about my alcoholism. I’m a grown woman, and I still steal my parent’s wine when they aren’t looking! Regardless, this project had a lot of meaning for me. It’s material that I feel very emotionally connected to, and I wanted to be very involved in all aspects of production. I wanted to do the film justice. And I think we did that.”
Since the stage adaptation was so important to her, Lola opted to not only direct, but to also act in a supporting role for her playhouse’s production. “Honestly, it was a last minute decision to cast myself as Ms. Santa’s Sister. I’m not a great actor, but I can relate to the character. She’s brutally honest, a functioning alcoholic, and despite her hard exterior- she has a good heart.”
Lola continued about her experience delving into the role of Ms. Santa’s Sister, and dealing with her costar. “Rudy is not my favorite dog. He’s just not. But ultimately, it made our chemistry that much more believable. In the film, the audience has a hard time understanding why Ms.Santa’s Sister would choose to begin a relationship with Willie. He’s terrible. In that sense. I truly connected with the character. I think Rudy, as a friend and co-inhabitant in my home, is also terrible. But like Ms.Santa’s Sister, I’ve always had to adapt to situations I’d prefer to not be a part of. Sue can’t even use her own name when she’s introduced to Willie’s surrogate family. But she adapts, moves into the kid’s home, and changes her name to Ms. Santa’s Sister. It was an easy role for me. I’m used to tolerating disappointment.”
The leading man, Rudy, also had a lot of praises for his fellow cast-mates. “Everyone was great. Lola found that perfect balance of affection and deep rooted issues that makes Ms. Santa’s Sister such an interesting character. And I really enjoyed Corrigan’s performance. He’s not in our theater’s main troupe, but he surprised us all with his accurate portrayal of the kid, Thurman Merman.”
Rudy continued, “The kid is a tough role, but Corrigan nailed it. He made you care about him, even when he was annoying the shit out of you.”
Jude proudly boasted about his fellow cast-mate,”His incessant nagging about reindeers and elves had the audience roaring with laughter all night.”
Corrigan remembered having a hard time keeping the pink and purple elephant dilemma straight. “I kept saying purple when I was supposed to be requesting the pink one! It was very confusing. And when you’re performing live, there are no re-takes. I just kept reminding myself to land on wanting the pink elephant. If I could remember that, I’d be ok.”
Despite not being in the scene, there was no question on what Jude chose as his favorite moment in the play. “After Willie destroys the kids advent calendar, we start to see him truly beginning to change. Both Corrigan and Rudy did such an incredible job of playing the truth in those scenes. It brought many audience members to tears.”
Lola beamed with pride as she remembered the audience’s reaction when Willy started standing up for the kid. “Everyone in the theater felt it. I was so proud they had listened to my direction. They could have easily screwed up my masterpiece, but they didn’t.”
“And that scene after Willy escapes the robbery…Damn. Just damn. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
“Bad Santa’s a show that only works when the audience is rooting for this unlikely underdog. Even if he’s an asshole, he’s still the underdog, and you want him to succeed. The character of Willie has to have the balls to save Christmas. A lot of skeptics judged Rudy for not having balls, and therefore deemed him unable to pull off the role. But he proved them wrong. He’s got them. Huge emotional vulnerable balls. And they were big enough to save Christmas ”