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Review: ELF THE MUSICAL National Tour, DPAC

Holiday fun for the whole family

Elf: The Musical (Non-Equity)

Every so often, a modern Christmas film is released that is added to the canon of Christmas classics alongside movies like It's a Wonderful Life and White Christmas. Elf, which was released in 2003, has undoubtedly achieved that status with its endlessly quotable lines and endearingly funny performance by Will Ferrell as Buddy. Many of these beloved holiday films have been adapted for the stage, like White Christmas and A Christmas Story, so it's natural that Elf has received the same treatment.

Thomas Meehan and Bob Bartin adapted the film into a stage musical with Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin providing music and lyrics, respectively. And while ELF THE MUSICAL never reaches the heights of the team's THE PROM, it's a sweet and fun holiday show for the whole family. The whole musical is framed as Santa telling the audience a story from a picture book about Buddy the Elf, which adds an interesting element to the show when breaking the fourth wall.

Elf: The Musical (Non-Equity)The story begins at the North Pole, where Buddy (played by a delightfully earnest Cody Garcia) doesn't fit in amongst the other elves, cleverly portrayed by adult actors on their knees, who are much shorter and much better at making toys. When a coworker in the toy factory spills the secret that Buddy is actually an elf, Santa decides to send him down to New York City to find his real father, Walter Hobbs (an appropriately stiff Christopher Robert Smith). He's not at all ready for what New York holds or for the frosty reception he receives from his father. However, his stepmother Emily (Caitlin Lester-Sams) and stepbrother Michael (Will Daly, the highlight of the whole show) are much more willing to take him in, especially once a DNA test confirms his parentage.

Hijinks ensue with Buddy at Walter's office, where he is an executive working on children's books, and at the Macy's department store, where he meets the pessimistic anti-Christmas Jovie (Tieisha Thomas) and quickly falls in love. The creative set pieces, designed by Christine Peters, and the colorful costumes by Gregg Barnes help bring both the North Pole and New York City to life in engaging ways.

Elf: The Musical (Non-Equity)Those familiar with the film will likely notice that the musical diverges from the plot quite a bit, condensing and rewriting parts to keep the action more contained. While it's jarring for those who have watched Elf dozens of times, the musical is at its best when it isn't afraid to be its own thing. The jokes that are taken straight from the film aren't as funny as they are in their original context and delivery, but new jokes and gags land much better. There are also some clever updates from the film that bring it more into the year 2022, like Santa having his list on an iPad.

ELF THE MUSICAL isn't quite the Christmas classic that the film it's based on is, but it's still a great way to spend the evening with your family.

ELF THE MUSICAL is at DPAC through December 4. You can find more information and buy tickets here.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Danie



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The 2022 Non-Equity national tour of ELF THE MUSICAL launched November 5 in Paducah, KY, and will visit twelve U.S. cities throughout the holiday season including a stop in St. Louis at the Fabulous Fox Theatre December 20-24.


From This Author - Nicole Ackman

Nicole Ackman returned to her native Raleigh, North Carolina after living in London and New York City. She studied communications and history at Elon University and earned her Master’s in Art... (read more about this author)


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