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BWW Review: ELF'D Saves Christmas Spirit at The Gaslight Theatre


Christmas show continues through January 2

BWW Review: ELF'D Saves Christmas Spirit  at The Gaslight Theatre What a difference a year makes. If we are to glean any wisdom from the dark days of the pandemic, it's to never take live theatre for granted, whatever form it takes.

That includes the guilty pleasure of attending a Gaslight production, where the Christmas spirit arrives early and heightens the time-honored campiness we've come to expect at the historic site on Broadway and Kolb.

No matter the competition, Gaslight remains a thriving enterprise -- an ironclad formula that keeps the house full, taste buds sated, music playing, jokes cracking, and business humming.

You get what you show up for. If you're looking to savor a script of the cultivated variety, you're in the wrong venue. But play along and you'll enjoy yourself, courtesy of some proven actors and singers who know this genre better than anyone in the business.

Gaslight adorns the season with ELF'D, a favorite Christmas spoof lifted right out of the movie ELF, which starred Will Ferrell as Buddy. Gaslight's elf is Dudley, played on Tuesday evening by the charming Randall McDonald (many roles are double-cast, at least). Next to a seasoned ensemble, McDonald's youth betrays him just a bit, though we can see his good knack for comedy. Melodrama as a genre requires a stock of physical nuances that an actor develops with experience. To his credit, McDonald has the support of a generous ensemble that facilitates his training.

At the North Pole, Santa and his fellow denizens are feeling despondent because of a universal decline in Christmas spirit. But Dudley is bent on saving Christmas, having concocted a magic potion that helps keep toy production going for little boys and girls everywhere. This does not sit well with Brad Hawkins, a rotten New York businessman determined to steal Christmas from everyone, even if it means shutting down Santa's Workshop in the North Pole. The versatile Mike Yarema plays Hawkins with delicious sneer, sporting a dark trench coat and the luring eccentricity of Peter Falk's Columbo.

BWW Review: ELF'D Saves Christmas Spirit  at The Gaslight Theatre

Early on, Dudley learns that he is human, adopted at birth by Santa and Mrs. Claus. It's one of the attributes that keeps him faithful to the Christmas spirit. But now he must try to find his father; so he summons his friend, a beluga whale, to take him to New York City where his father lives. There, Dudley stumbles upon an evil plot to ruin Christmas and musters the courage to save it for everyone. What do you know, the same adversary he aims to stop ends up being his long-lost sibling. Hawkins is changed and the two are reunited.

Jacob Brown remains the consistent foil to every good character who means well. As Hawkins' sidekick Wally, he is the lovable, nasty villain who elicits our best boos and hisses. Heather Stricker plays the sassy secretary who owns every moment she takes. Janee Page is an eye-catching New Yorker who befriends Dudley on her way to an audition as an elf. She is even dressed like one, much to Dudley's ambivalence and delight. Erin Thompson plays Polly, the ultra-positive elf who gives Dudley all the encouragement he needs. She shares a beautiful duet with Todd Thompson, who plays Billy.BWW Review: ELF'D Saves Christmas Spirit  at The Gaslight Theatre

Rounding out this highly entertaining cast are the ever-dependable David Orley as Santa and Ruthie Hayashi as the tender and affectionate Mrs. Claus. Multiple-threat talent Katherine Byrnes deserves high praise for directing and choreography. Her work more than compensates for Peter Van Slyke's wafer-thin script. But who's judging?

Heads up to newcomers: Don't leave after the main event because after-show shenanigans are worth the wait. This year, the Andy Williams Christmas Olio is back and you'll most certainly want to engage in some nostalgic merrymaking. And what's Gaslight entertainment without pianist and music director Linda Ackermann? The sound of those keys will linger in your ears long after you've left the building. She is backed up by a solid rhythm section in Adam Ackermann on drums and Mitzi Cowell on bass.

Last but certainly not least, do come in hungry or you'll miss out on some of the heartiest pizza selections you'll find this side of Chicago (it's not the only fare on the menu, either).

ELF'D continues through January 2, 2002.

Shows run Monday through Sunday. For tickets, call 520-886-8428 or visit the box office, open 10am to 8pm daily, at 7010 E. Broadway, Tucson, Arizona 85710

Reservations are required.

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From This Author Robert Encila-Celdran