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BWW Review: Touring Company of ELF Visits Madison Square Garden

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When the musical comedy based on the hit movie ELF first came to Broadway for a limited run in November of 2010, many anticipated a slapdash effort just good enough to draw in the crowd that would be attracted to a familiar name for their holiday theatergoing.

But the creative talents behind the show have got some serious musical theatre chops. The funny and quirky book is a collaboration of Bob Martin (THE DROWSEY CHAPARONE) and master craftsman Thomas Meehan (ANNIE, THE PRODUCERS) and the snazzy score is by THE WEDDING SINGER's pairing of lyricist Chad Beguelin and composer Matthew Sklar. Their upbeat, oddball and tuneful concoction has a contemporary attitude that's light on the seasonal sentiment, but heavy on the showbiz fun.

The touring production currently occupying The Theater at Madison Square Garden is a low-budget affair, with a recorded orchestra and a modest set design. Like many book musicals in the cavernous venue, the stage tends to look very far away once you reach the middle of the house, but those sitting up close can enjoy the efforts of a likable and peppy company.

Wonderfully rubber-faced clown Eric Petersen is terrific as Buddy, the North Pole resident whose towering presence over his fellow elves and ineptitude at toy-making comes from the fact that he's actually a human who, as an infant, accidentally hitched a ride on Santa's sleigh. When he finds out his mother is long dead and his dad, unaware he fathered a child with her, is a New York children's book publisher with a wife and son, Buddy takes his awkward sincerity to Gotham.

The most familiar Broadway name involved is Christiane Noll (Tony nominee for the 2010 revival of RAGTIME) lending professional verve as Buddy's sassy new stepmom. Character man Danny Rutigliano gives a solid old-school musical comedy turn as the hard-nosed publishing boss. The fine company carries out Sam Scalamoni and Connor Gallagher's functional and direction choreography with gusto, but this production would be better suited for a smaller venue in a city where there's less competition from slicker holiday entertainments.


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