BWW Review: THE CHRISTMAS ELF at Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre
On Sunday, November 26, I had the pleasure of seeing THE CHRISTMAS ELF performed at the Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre in Bridgeport, CT. This unique musical was written by Phill Hill and directed by Frank Root. The music includes both popular arrangements of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," "Toys of Christmas," which parodies Don Henley's "Boys of Summer," the Eagles' "Already Gone," with slightly altered lyrics, and other songs.
One of the great traditions of the Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre is for the fourth wall to be broken, making the children in the audience feel directly involved in the show. In THE CHRISTMAS ELF, the fourth wall is demolished from the very beginning as an elf named Elvis, portrayed by Andrea Pane makes his entrance from the audience, looking through the audience and making comments to them. He is soon joined by another elf named Twizzle who is portrayed by Ashley DePascale who also makes her entrance through the audience. Elvis and Twizzle provide comedy that gets both children and adults involved in the show from the start. It is clear that Andrea Pane and Ashley DePascale both enjoy playing their roles, and feeling the positive feedback from the audience.
When the elves get to the stage, they Face-Time with Santa Claus, who is projected on a screen in the back of the stage, as if it is a giant screen for Face-Timing. With slightly more than three days remaining before Christmas, Santa Claus tells them that he needs an elf to check on two siblings named Jacob and Emmy, to determine whether they should be on the naughty list or the nice list. Elvis searches the crowd for an elf, and comes back with a then unnamed elf who is portrayed by Eric Regan.
Prior to the show starting, the audience gets to select potential names for Eric Regan's character, by writing them down on ballots. Just before the start of the show, the cast reviews the names and chooses their favorite three. At this point in the show, when they are looking to come up with a name for the Christmas Elf, the three names are read to the audience. Then, each name is again read one at a time, where the audience reaction determines the name given to the elf, which will likely be a different name at every performance.
Eric Regan excels in this role, always remaining positive, clearly enjoying his time up on the stage, radiating friendly vibes to the children in the audience, establishing himself as the protagonist who they all want to see succeed, whatever his name may be at any given performance. The enthusiastic reaction that the children give to him whenever he asks for their help is evidence that the children are all having a great time.
When the Christmas Elf (Eric Regan) arrives at Emmy and Jacob's house, he sees their toys. Their toys include Mr. Roboto, a robot portrayed by Jason Parry, who does an excellent job making the sharp robot motions on stage. Lance Anthony does an amazing imitation of the speaking voice of Disney's Baloo, while portraying Teddy, a teddy bear who is Jacob's favorite toy. Emmy has two dolls. One is Barbsie, who actress Cassie Carroll brings to life. The other doll is Anne, who is convincingly portrayed by Taylor Hoffman. The toys all sing and dance, while in the presence of the Christmas Elf, but remain motionless in the presence of Emmy and Jacob. Barbsie is even able to stay still while Emmy applies a deliberately excessive amount of makeup to Barbsie's face. The toys become the antagonists, fearful that Emmy and Jacob will forget about them after receiving new toys on Christmas. So, with Teddy as the ringleader, they plot to prevent the Christmas Elf from giving Santa Claus a report that would put Emmy and Jacob on the nice list, prior to Christmas. It remains clear, though, that all four toys are portrayed by people who are clearly enjoying their roles, and have a great appreciation for the positive reactions from the children in the audience.
Emmy and Jacob definitely belong on the nice list. They are respectful to their parents and play well with each other. In this performance, Benny Lublinsky played the role of Jacob, while Cassidy Meehan played the role of Emmy. Both are legitimately talented, not merely for children, but outright talented. They are able to sing and dance, remaining synchronized and coordinated with the adults in the cast, while selling every line they deliver. Like the adults, it is clear that they both are also having a great time portraying their characters. It appears that the Downtown Cabaret Theatre may have found two of its future stars for main stage productions.
What is going to happen to the Christmas Elf? Will he be able to return to give the nice report to Santa Claus in time? Will Emmy and Jacob get any new toys this Christmas? If not, will the positive reactions on Christmas morning from Jacob and Emmy, despite not getting any new toys convict their old toys to have a change of heart, making their hearts three times larger, and giving them each the strength of ten toys plus two? Will something completely unexpected happen? Come see the show to find out, and bring your children. Both children and adults will enjoy this production, as I did. THE CHRISTMAS ELF is scheduled to continue to run at the Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre in Bridgeport, CT, every Saturday at 12:00 P.M. and 2:30 P.M. through December 23, every Sunday at 1:00 P.M. and 3:30 P.M. through December 17, and with two final performances at 4:30 PM on Wednesday, December 27, and Thursday, December 28. For tickets, please go to http://dtcab.com/show/the-christmas-elf/.