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Paper Mill Playhouse Offers Autism-Friendly Performance of ELF Today

Paper Mill Playhouse is proud to announce a special autism-friendly performance for its critically-acclaimed, holiday musical, Elf. Paper Mill Playhouse will offer this special autism-friendly performance of Elf today, December 23, at 1:30pm. This performance is designed specifically for children on the autism spectrum or with other developmental disabilities.

This is the second time Paper Mill Playhouse has expanded its autism-friendly performances to a mainstage production after a successful performance of Disney's The Little Mermaid in 2013. The theater environment will be altered for this performance, providing a sensory-friendly, comfortable and judgment-free space that is welcoming to all families. The performance itself will be adjusted with special attention paid to lighting and sound.

Paper Mill Playhouse Autism-Friendly performances are planned in cooperation with Paper Mill Playhouse's Autism Advisory Team: Linda S. Meyer, Ed.D., BCBA-D, MPA, CPT. Kelly A. Carlile, M.A., BCBA, and Jeff Jacobs, M.A., BCBA.

Based on the holiday film starring Will Ferrell, Elf is the fantastical holiday musical for the entire family! This is the hilarious and joyous tale of Buddy, an orphan who is mistakenly transported to the North Pole and raised by Santa's elves. Now, as a grownup, he embarks on a journey to discover his true identity. It's a holiday treat for the entire family.

Tickets for this special performance are on sale now and range from $28 to $99. Tickets may be purchased by calling 973.376.4343, at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, or online at Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Groups of 10 or more can receive up to a 40% discount on tickets and should call 973.315.1680.

Additionally, Paper Mill Playhouse will host a free open house titled Meet Your Seat on Monday, December 22, 2014, from 4:00 to 6:00pm. This is an opportunity for children who are new to the theatrical experience to visit the theater space before the show. Often children with autism or other developmental disabilities become anxious in new surroundings, new experiences, and they need time to transition. The Meet Your Seat open house provides an opportunity for children to come to the theater in advance of the performance and take time to feel comfortable in this new space. Major support for autism-friendly programs is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional generous support by C.R. Bard Foundation, The Karma Foundation, The Merck Company Foundation, and, MetLife Foundation.

Paper Mill Playhouse embraces a long history of providing access services to patrons of the theater. In addition to autism-friendly performances, Paper Mill Playhouse offers a wide variety of access programs and services including: sign-interpreted performances, open-captioned performances, audio-described performances, pre-show sensory seminars and barrier-free access theater-wide. Paper Mill Playhouse's accessibility programs have been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, VSA arts/MetLife, and the New Jersey Department of Recreation as a role model for other performing arts organizations throughout the country.

Based on the 2003 film starring Will Ferrell, Elf has a book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Chad Beguelin. Elf is directed by Eric Ankrim and choreographed by Josh Rhodes. Elf will run eight times a week at the Millburn, New Jersey, through January 4, 2015. Paper Mill Playhouse's 2014-2015 Season is proudly sponsored by Investors Bank.

Elf will be performed at Paper Mill Playhouse eight times a week, Wednesday through Sunday. Performance schedule: Wednesday at 7:00pm, Thursday at 1:30pm and 7:00pm, Friday at 7:00pm, Saturday at 1:30pm and 7:00pm and Sunday at 1:30pm and 7:00pm. Check Paper Mill Playhouse's website for special holiday week schedules. Tickets are on sale now and range from $28 to $99. Tickets may be purchased by calling 973.376.4343, at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, or online at Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Groups of 10 or more can receive up to a 40% discount on tickets and should call 973.315.1680. College students can order $20 rush tickets over the phone or in person at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office on the day of the performance.

"There is no better way to celebrate the holidays than a trip to Paper Mill Playhouse to experience this heartwarming and hilarious musical about everyone's favorite elf, Buddy," commented Mark S. Hoebee, Producing Artistic Director for the Millburn theater. "Bring your entire family together to see the New Jersey premiere of this holiday treat."

Elf features a cast of Broadway veterans and Paper Mill Playhouse favorites. James Moye (Buddy), a North Bergen resident, appeared in the Broadway companies of Bullets Over Broadway, Million Dollar Quartet, Ragtime, A Tale of Two Cities, The Full Monty and Urinetown. Moye's television credits include The Onion News Network, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, The Today Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and more. Kate Fahrner (Jovie), a resident of Maplewood, was seen in the Broadway and touring productions of Wicked. Fahrer was also seen in off-Broadway productions of Under My Skin and Sarah, Plain and Tall. Paul C. Vogt (Santa) returns to Paper Mill Playhouse, where he last appeared as Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Vogt is known for his roles on MADtv and NBC's The Rerun Show. On Broadway, Vogt was seen in Chicago and Hairspray.

Heidi Blickenstaff (Emily Hobbs) was last seen on Broadway as Alice Beineke in The Addams Family. Blickenstaff's other Broadway credits include [title of show], The Little Mermaid and The Full Monty. Robert Cuccioli (Walter Hobbs) returns to Paper Mill for his thirteenth production. On Broadway, Cuccioli was seen in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, LES MISERABLES and Jekyll & Hyde. Jake Faragalli (Michael), a south Jersey resident, appeared off-Broadway in Julie Taymor's A Midsummer Night's Dream and was seen in regional productions of Oliver!, Mulan, Willy Wonka, To Kill a Mockingbird and Father of the Bride.

Cleve Asbury (Mr. Greenway), a Bloomfield resident, was featured as Mr. Ovington in the recent Broadway revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Asbury was also seen on Broadway in Chita Rivera: The Dancers Life, Annie Get Your Gun, Jerome Robbins' Broadway, Me and My Girl and others. Jessica Sheridan (Deb) returns to Paper Mill, where she appeared in Oliver! and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Sheridan's Broadway credits include Sister Act, Follies, Mary Poppins and LES MISERABLES. DeMone (Macy's Manager) performed in productions of Ragtime, Miss Saigon, Rent, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Great MacDaddy, Black Nativity Now and Balls: The Musical.

Rounding out the ensemble are: Sydney Brenton (Short Hills, NJ), Stephanie Cain, Alicia Charles, Brittany Conigatti, Michael Di Liberto, Madge Dietrich, Michael Fatica, Michael Coale Grey (Union, NJ), Anna McCarthy (Madison, NJ), Gillian Munsayac, Patrick O'Neill, Heather Parcells, Jody Reynard, Christopher Paul Richards, Justin Schuman, Sam Seferian and Laura Smith.

Eric Ankrim (Director) is a Seattle-based director and actor who previously directed Elf at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, WA. Ankrim also directed the Seattle premieres of In the Heights, Spring Awakening, Avenue Q and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, which he adapted for the stage. As an actor, Ankrim understudied Zachary Levi in Broadway's First Date, in a role he originated in Seattle.

Josh Rhodes (Choreographer) received a 2013 Drama Desk Award nomination for best choreography for Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella. Also on Broadway, Rhodes provided the musical staging for First Date and served as the Associate Choreographer on The Drowsy Chaperone, and he choreographed Company with the New York Philharmonic starring Neil Patrick Harris and Patti LuPone for PBS.

Dominick Amendum (Music Director) has, for the past eight years, served as Associate Music Supervisor for the international megahit Wicked, having also conducted Wicked's Broadway, Los Angeles and first national touring companies. In New York City, Amendum also worked on First Date, Heathers and The Blue Flower. Amendum worked on recordings with artists such as Dolly Parton, Marvin Hamlisch, and Stephen Schwartz.

Thomas Meehan (Book) received the Tony Award for writing the book of Annie, his first Broadway show, as well as for cowriting the books for The Producers and Hairspray. He also wrote the books for the musicals Rocky, Chaplin, Young Frankenstein, I Remember Mama, Annie Warbucks and more. He is a longtime contributor of humor to The New Yorker, an Emmy Award-winning writer of television comedy, and a collaborator on screenplays including Spaceballs and To Be or Not to Be.

Bob Martin (Book) has worked as an actor and writer in Canadian theater, film and television for three decades. He co-created and starred in The Drowsy Chaperone, which won him the 2006 Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for best book, the Theatre World Award, and a Tony nomination for best actor. He is the co-creator of the TV show Slings & Arrows and also has written, produced, and appeared in Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays, Puppets Who Kill, Sensitive Skin and others.

Matthew Sklar (Music) wrote the music for The Wedding Singer, which garnered nominations for the Tony Award for best score and the Drama Desk Award for outstanding music. Sklar's other original musicals include The Rhythm Club, Judas & Me and Wicked City. Sklar served as pianist, conductor and/or arranger for more than a dozen Broadway productions, including Shrek, Nine, 42nd Street, Titanic, Miss Saigon, LES MISERABLES and Caroline, or Change.

Chad Beguelin (Lyrics) most recently penned the book and additional lyrics for Disney's Aladdin on Broadway, earning Tony Award nominations for best book and best score. He was nominated in the same categories in 2006 for his work on The Wedding Singer. His play Harbor premiered Off Broadway last season at Primary Stages. He also wrote the book and lyrics for Judas & Me, The Rhythm Club and Wicked City.

The Elf design team includes:

Matthew Smucker (Scenic Design) is a Seattle-based scenic designer whose work appeared at Seattle Repertory Theatre, 5th Avenue Theatre, Intiman Theatre, Village Theatre, Seattle Children's Theatre, Houston's Theatre Under the Stars, Arizona Theatre Company, Portland Center Stage, San Jose Rep, Kansas City Rep, Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis and more.

Kelly James Tighe (Scenic Coordination) worked on off-Broadway and touring productions of The Great Divorce, The Fantasticks, Almost Heaven, Movin' Out, Shear Madness and Cats.

David C. Woolard (Costume Design) designed costumes for the Broadway productions of West Side Story, All Shook Up, 700 Sundays, The Rocky Horror Show (Tony Award nomination), The Who's Tommy (Tony and Olivier Award nominations), Bells Are Ringing and more. Woolard's off-Broadway, regional, and opera credits include Piece of My Heart, Bare, The Toxic Avenger, Playwrights Horizons, Hartford Stage, Lincoln Center Theater, Santa Fe Opera, New York City Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Kennedy Center, Old Globe, Mark Taper Forum, Goodman, Arena, Guthrie, and Seattle Rep among others.

Irma Brainard (Costume Coordination) worked as an assistant costume designer on the Broadway productions of The Best Man, Follies, The Book of Mormon and Elf. At Paper Mill Playhouse, Brainard worked on South Pacific and Oliver!.

Charlie Morrison (Lighting Design) returns to Paper Mill Playhouse after lighting Grease, The Little Mermaid, Curtains, Smokey Joe's Cafe, The Full Monty, Meet Me in St. Louis and Hello, Dolly! Morrison worked on national and international tours of Hello, Dolly!, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Miss Saigon, Aida, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Who's Tommy. Morrison received two Helen Hayes Awards for outstanding lighting design and has been nominated seven times.

Randy Hansen (Sound Design) is Paper Mill Playhouse's resident sound designer. He is audio consultant and sound designer for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Indianapolis Symphony, and he completed the sound installation at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. Numerous television broadcasts include Broadway on Broadway, Victoria's Secret Christmas specials and the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Leah Loukas (Hair & Wig Design) worked on the Broadway productions of On the Town, A Night with Janis Joplin, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, American Idiot and Irena's Vow. At Paper Mill Playhouse Loukas designed Grease, The Sound of Music, The Little Mermaid, Oliver! and South Pacific.

Telsey + Company (Casting) is an award-winning organization of casting professionals in New York City with local, regional, national and international clientele including Broadway and touring companies of If/Then, The King and I, Motown, Kinky Boots, Finding Neverland, Honeymoon in Vegas, Rock of Ages and Wicked. The lead casting director on this project is Cesar A. Rocha, CSA.

Gary Mickelson (Production Stage Manager) recently stage managed Can-Can at Paper Mill Playhouse. On Broadway, Mr. Mickelson stage managed First Date, Memphis, Gypsy, Company, Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life, The Lion in Winter and Victor/Victoria.

PAPER MILL PLAYHOUSE, a not-for-profit arts organization, is one of the country's leading regional theaters. Paper Mill Playhouse programs are made possible, in part, by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, A Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Paper Mill Playhouse is a member of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, the Council of Stock Theatres, and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

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