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BWW Interview: Audra Qualley and the Cast of ELF Get Sparklejollytwinklejingly at The Fox Theatre

According to everyone's favorite full-grown elf, the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear! This advice has been taken quite literally by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan, who wrote the book for the musical adaptation of the 2003 hit Christmas movie "Elf". ELF the Musical first premiered on Broadway during the 2010 Christmas season, with music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Chad Beguelin. This season, Buddy is once again traveling across the country (not by ice this time) to spread his love for Christmas and syrup with theatregoers all over the United States. I got a chance to chat with Audra Qualley, who plays Deb, Walter Hobbs secretary and Buddy the Elf enthusiast, between performances while she was in Las Vegas. Read on to learn how this singing elf is doing more than searching for his dad: he is changing the Christmas season for an entire generation on the stage and the screen.

Broadway World: This tour of Elf had its first performance on November 17th. How does it feel to be starting the Christmas season over a month early?

AUDRA: Yes! We opened on November 6th, but don't forget that we started rehearsals in mid-October, so basically we've been celebrating Christmas since Halloween! It feels a little funny at times, you occasionally lose track of what time of the year it is. But when it all boils down to it, I get to celebrate Christmas every night. And that is really something special.

Let's be honest, we all love to play our Christmas music a little early every year. How has the cast worked to the holiday spirit alive throughout the run? Any pre-show holiday-themed rituals?

The show itself has such a wonderful message and is so beautiful that it really lends itself to keeping our Christmas spirit alive. Not a night goes by where the show doesn't choke me up, and keep in mind that this is my second year with the tour! It really never gets old.

Before every show, the cast stands backstage and does a little chant to get us pumped up. In one of the scenes, Buddy teaches the workers at Macy's how to be "sparklejollytwinklejingly", so before each show we put our hands in and chant some of the lyrics, and then we say "gooooo ELF!", like we're a football team. It's just a little tradition that has been passed down from all the Elf tours previously and it gets us all united and excited for the show each night.

I'm sure the show is just like the movie - one of those you can watch over and over and the jokes still make you laugh! So, this isn't just another production of A Christmas Carol - how is Elf different from the classic Christmas shows we know and love, and why should audiences choose to see your show?

I actually believe that Elf has actually become one of those "classic Christmas" movies. For my generation, it's our Miracle on 34th Street. It's our A Christmas Story. It's the one we grew up watching and were actually able to see in the movie theater.

Audiences should choose to see the show because it has something for everyone. It's great for families and savvy enough for adults, and you don't have to be a "theatre buff" to come and see the show. You don't have to know every line from the movie to be able to follow the story and enjoy it. The characters are so real and so relatable, the music is absolutely gorgeous, and you'll be laughing all night. But most importantly you'll leave the theater with a warmth in your heart. It reignites the magic of Christmas and is the perfect way to welcome the holiday season.

This might be a silly question, but had you seen the movie before you joined this tour?

Believe it or not, I had never seen the movie until I auditioned for the show. I'm a big fan of Christmas and Christmas movies, but for some reason Elf had slipped through the cracks for me! When I had a callback for my character, Deb, I decided to watch the movie and see what it was all about- and I loved every minute of it. I couldn't believe I had gone all those years without seeing it. It's so funny, so clever; it's nearly impossible to not enjoy this story.

Wow that is definitely hard to believe! I'm glad you've finally experienced it on screen and on stage. Besides ELF, what is your all-time favorite Christmas movie?

I would say I can't get through a Christmas season without watching Home Alone 1 and 2. They are my absolute favorite. The Santa Clause, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and A Christmas Story are also pretty strong contenders.

Love all of those. Personally I think The Santa Clause would make a phenomenal musical. So how should fans of the movie version of Elf enter into this show? What should they expect to be different on the stage rather than the screen?

They should enter with no hesitation! I think the show translates perfectly from the movie to the musical. The musical a bigger, brighter, flashier version of the movie you know and love. Our show gives you big dance numbers, catchy music, big beautiful sets and costumes, and lots of Christmas magic. All your favorite characters are there, like the Macy's Store Manager, Charlie the Elf, and Charlotte Dennon. The show perfectly captures all of your favorite moments from the movie, and I think even the most hardcore "Elf" fan will not be disappointed.

You can catch Audra and the cast of ELF playing at The Fabulous Fox Theatre December 2, 2015 through December 6, 2015. Tickets can be purchased here, or at http://www.elfthemusicalontour.com/ . Get your tickets today you I am a cotton-headed ninnymoggins!


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From This Author Kiley Gipson

Kiley is a Broadway World contributor out of Atlanta, GA. She graduated from the University of Alabama in May 2015 (Roll Tide) with a double (read more...)