BWW Interview: Eric Williams' Inner ELF Can't Wait to Share Buddy's Tale of Optimism and Perseverance with DPAC Audiences

BWW Interview: Eric Williams' Inner ELF Can't Wait to Share Buddy's Tale of Optimism and Perseverance with DPAC Audiences

Eric Williams grew up watching Christmas movies with his family in St. Louis. In fact, he says it was his family who instilled in him a passion and excitement for the holiday movie genre. And while he likes some of the more traditional classic films, the more recent ones that put a contemporary spin on Christmas are by far his favorites.

"They try and tell you what the meaning of Christmas is, but do it in a very fresh and modern way," he says. "The modern sensibility of such an old tradition, it really tickles me and excites me."

So, it should be no surprise that the 2003 movie 'Elf' is on Williams' short list of Christmas favorites. But what might be surprising is the fact that it wasn't the Will Ferrell movie that made Williams want to step into Buddy the Elf's pointy green shoes. It was the original song "World's Greatest Dad" from the Broadway musical that really spoke to Williams.

Williams says he first heard the song shortly after graduating from New York University and knew he needed to play the part. After a lot of auditions, he landed his dream role. Next week audiences will get a chance to see him perform as Buddy when the musical ELF plays the Durham Performing Arts Center.

"Buddy has taught me just what focus, hard work, and optimism can get you in life," he says. "It can completely change your circumstances."

"The energy you put out into the world, I genuinely feel comes back to you," he adds.

Based on the movie, ELF opened on Broadway in 2010 for a limited holiday run and features a book by Bob Martin (THE DROWSY CHAPERONE) and Thomas Meehan (HAIRSPRAY, ANNIE) and a musical score by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (THE WEDDING SINGER).

Williams says the show is the perfect marriage of the iconic movie moments audiences remember along with big Broadway musical numbers, incredible costumes, and gorgeous sets.

"What I love about the musical is that every single favorite part that people have in the movie, they perfectly place it in the musical," he says.

"You have your favorite lines. You have Buddy going through the revolving door. You have the amazing relationship between Buddy and Jovie."

"I would say the only difference between the show and the movie is that the story is told a little differently," he adds.

Williams says one of the greatest challenges and joys in playing this role has been finding his own "Buddy" while honoring what Ferrell did in the movie.

"Will Ferrell is amazing because he brings an honesty and a sheer genuine excitement, and then of course on top of that, his Will Ferrell-isms," says Williams. "What I have done is try to bring that same authenticity, the same genuine excitement, and honesty, but then on top of that, have my Eric Williams-isms that are sprinkled in."

"So, people will connect with Buddy because he is so excited and so genuine, but then they feel like they are getting a unique experience because they are watching my take on it," he adds.

"The role is so special to me because I get to find that honesty while then combining the insanity and silliness of Buddy, which is my favorite thing to play."

And Williams says it's not just the kids who are connecting with Buddy's optimism and story of perseverance. In fact, he says people his age, who were obsessed with the movie as teenagers, are now getting to bring their kids to see the show and are making it a holiday family tradition.

"It's not one of those musicals that feels like it is just for the younger kids," he says. "It is a musical that transcends age."

"It really is an entertaining spectacle for everyone," he adds.

ELF runs December 4th through December 9th at the Durham Performing Arts Center. There will also be an autism-friendly performance on December 8th for individuals on the autism spectrum or anyone who might benefit from a more relaxed environment.

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From This Author Lauren Van Hemert

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