Arizona Broadway Theatre Presents ELF THE MUSICAL
Like a Christmas tree adorned with all types of trimmings and tinsel and stars, local theatre, between Thanksgiving and New Year's, is arrayed with a holly jolly lot of offerings from the sentimental to the silly, sometimes the two intertwining. That's the case with ELF THE MUSICAL (adapted from the Will Ferrell flick of 2003), now the featured Holiday treat at Arizona Broadway Theatre.
Sure, the story line is goofy, but it's also feel-good ~ and, in its musical adaptation, a far sight more tolerable than the movie.
For those requiring a recap, here you go: Once upon a Christmas, baby Buddy crawls into Santa's bag and is off to the North Pole. Despite his unusual size and incompetence, he's assimilated into the toy-making workforce of elves. Then one day, he learns that he's actually a human being and that he has a family in the Big Apple. Off he relos to NYC, clad in his elfin greens, and stirs up a snowstorm of turmoil. Despite denial and apprehension about Buddy's claims that he's their son, the Hobbs Family inevitably adjusts. And, of course, along the way, faith in Santa is reaffirmed, love conquers all, and everybody lives happily ever after.
Michael Whitney has directed the show with an eye to capitalizing on merriment while also juxtaposing two socially relevant themes ~ the imperative of charity (what he calls the "Scrooge element") and the crisis of alienation (the "fish out of water" theme). Thanks to smart stagecraft, glitzy well-choreographed numbers ((Kurtis Overby), and an energetic cast, led by Tyler Pirrung as Buddy, his vision works. The show is light-hearted and fun enough to make the overly long 150-minute (including intermission) production manageable.
Pirrung (the "[el]fish out of water'") finds the funny in Buddy's cluelessness and awkward innocence in his efforts to be accepted. He is charming, lithe, and huggable, with a voice that has range and oomph.
Buddy's a sharp contrast to his dad, Walter Hobbs (the "Scrooge element"), played with equanimity and an ample amount of likeability by Bill Saunders. Fact of the matter is that this Walter is not so much a nasty Scrooge-ish guy as he is being Scrooged by higher-ups at a publishing firm for children's books, most notably the stern Mr. Greenway (Rob Watson). Walter is under pressure to produce "a book" that sells...or else. For someone who has rated a place on Santa's "naughty list," Saunders gives us an overworked and confused Hobbs for whom sympathy is well-deserved.
Hobbs isn't the only one that Buddy needs to convince. As wife Emily and son Michael, Carolyn McPhee and Tristan Klaphake (a remarkable stage presence for his age) pair up to give delightful performances of skeptics on the way to a spirited duet that reaffirms the holiday spirit (There is a Santa Claus).
Buddy discovers love at Macy's. He is smitten by Jovie, an employee at SantaLand, played with relish by Madison Chichon, who dazzles when she acknowledges in song, Never Fall in Love With an Elf.
There are a number of glistening moments in the musical. The opening number of Act II, Nobody Cares About Santa, is a jazzy lament by a crew of disgruntled unemployed department store Santas. In The Story of Buddy, the ensemble gathers for a snappy narrative of Buddy's journey.
One of the real gems of the show is Hannah Clarke Levine as Deb, Walter's assistant. In one fun number with Buddy, Just Like Him, we see a performer who moves with panache and is downright hilarious.
All told, ABT's ELF offers an uplifting and fun time at the theatre.
ELF The Musical runs through December 29th at the Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria, AZ.
Photo credit to Nate Bertone
Arizona Broadway Theatre ~ https://azbroadway.org/ ~ 623-776-8400 ~ 7710 W. Paradise Lane, Peoria, AZ