BWW Review: ELF THE MUSICAL Spreads Christmas Cheer at Beef & Boards
If you, like us, are ready for the Christmas season to begin its annual deluge of fun and frivolity, be sure to visit Beef and Boards to see ELF THE MUSICAL. It is an embodiment of the carol lyrics "all is merry and bright." The dazzling costumes, sparkling lights, and jolly vocals are a delight to audience members.
My initial reaction to seeing this musical was to ponder how someone could possibly follow the performance of Will Ferrell in the iconic film version of ELF THE MUSICAL. However, Dan Bob Higgins brought the role of Buddy to life without any disappointments. He was completely and 100% over the top about his Christmas persona, and that is exactly what is demanded of the character. What made his performance even better was the fact that I bought into it. He was over the top enough that he didn't come across as over-acting. He was fully invested in his character's love of Santa, Christmas, and anything associated with those two favorites.
Buddy's intensity is countered by his love interest, Jovie, played by Emily Grace Tucker. She shows what I think an audience member would feel if they met Buddy. She is initially overwhelmed, begrudgingly charmed, and finally overcome by his childlike enthusiasm. Tucker's performance came through as an authentic representation of a transformation we could all possibly use this holiday season. Set aside cynicism and embrace joy, whatever it takes. (Even if it's "singing loud for all to hear."
Another highlight for me was Lanene Charters as Deb, secretary to Buddy's jaded biological father. She may have been a minor character, but what intrigued me about Charters portrayal was the way she showed her own inner "Buddy" so freely when he came on the scene. She, like many of us out there potentially, already has that inner "sparklejollytwinklejingley" and needs only the right push to let it show.
It is impossible to watch this show's ensemble without enjoying the choreography. The music itself is almost uniformly jovial and light, but the dancing that goes with it was immense fun to witness. The timing was excellent, and the cast as a whole clearly enjoyed what they were doing.
The original is always better, or so the saying goes, but that's not always true when it comes to musicals adapted from movies.
"Elf the Musical," that is playing at Beef & Boards this past holiday weekend, left this reviewer longing to go home and watch the 2003 movie that inspired the traveling musical. But, that's not because I was disappointed.
Before you call me the Grinch, be assured that "Elf the Musical" is the perfect escape, putting audience members thoroughly in the holiday spirit complete with shredder-paper snow, flying sleighs, and Santa Claus.
The musical remains mostly unaltered compared to the movie remains as brightly-colored as a row of frosted pop-tarts. The plot is easy to swallow just like Buddy's favorite maple syrup and follows our leading elf (Dan Bob Higgins) on a journey from the North Pole to New York City to find his biological father (Mark Epperson), a big-shot businessman working at a publishing company for children's books. Buddy's presence spreads Christmas cheer and joy to the family, the whole of Manhattan, and his love interest - the so-slightly jaded, Jovie.
Dan Bob Higgins worked his socks (or rather yellow tights) off as Buddy. He may not have technically hit every single note on the higher end of the show during the musical numbers, but his overly joyous portrayal of incorruptibility and honesty is infectious, and his comic timing was right on cue. The score is chockfull of rousing anthems to holiday cheer, including "Christmastown," "There is a Santa Claus," and "Sparklejollytwinklejingley." Plus, there are also several strong showings from Heather Patterson King and Aiden Shurr as Emily and Michael Hobbs, especially during their heartfelt letter to Santa, the musical number "I'll Believe in You".
As we walked out of "Elf the Musical", we distinctly noticed that the show left audience members smiling from ear to ear and chanting that "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is by singing loud for all to hear." This production is sure to be a family favorite, so grab a group and wear your most jolly holiday gear to see ELF at Beef and Boards. It's a message we can all use this Christmas season. "Elf the Musical" will be playing at Beef & Boards now until December 31st.