Review: North Carolina Theatre's ELF THE MUSICAL

The story of Buddy the elf!

By: Dec. 10, 2023
Review: North Carolina Theatre's ELF THE MUSICAL
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Based on Jon Favreau’s 2003 classic Christmas film of the same name, Elf follows a young orphan named Buddy, who as a baby mistakenly crawls into Santa's bag of gifts and is transported to the North Pole. The would-be elf is raised, unaware that he is actually a human until his enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth. With Santa's permission, Buddy embarks on a journey to New York City to find his birth father and discover his true identity. Faced with the harsh realities that his father is on the naughty list and his half-brother doesn't even believe in Santa, Buddy is determined to win over his new family and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas.

The stage musical adaptation played a limited holiday run at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on Broadway, beginning on November 2nd, 2010 and ending on January 2nd, 2011 following 15 previews and 57 regular performances. After breaking box office records, Elf made a return engagement two years later with a revised book and new opening number. Since then, it has toured the United States, played in London’s West End, and was adapted into a 2014 Emmy nominated hour-long stop motion animated special on NBC.

I’ve only seen the original film once three years ago, and enjoyed it. I may not have a strong memory, but this musical does stay true to the heart and soul of the story. The book by Thomas Meehan & Bob Martin is very funny and heartfelt. The score by Matthew Sklar & Chad Beguelin is very tuneful. Under Eric Woodall’s direction, all of the action is staged as if it’s taking place in a giant snow globe. Nikki Long crafts such lively choreography, especially with some killer tap dancing in the finale. Most of all, Elf perfectly explores both the pros and cons of the Christmas season, which anyone in the audience should easily identify with.

Max Chernin is so lovable as Buddy, the naive human who wants to bring joy to the world. The energy he brings to the role is so infectious. Sean Allan Krill as Buddy’s father, Walter Hobbs, has the best character arc in the whole show. We watch him go from an angry workaholic children’s book writer to eventually finding the Christmas spirit. The relationship between Buddy and Walter really is the heart and soul of the musical. Jim Bray excellently pulls off two different roles. The first being Santa Claus, which he perfectly embodies. The second being Walter’s tyrannical boss, Mr. Greenway, which he nails. Other highlights of the cast include Courtnee Carter as Buddy’s cynical love interest, Jovie, Kathy Voytko as Walter’s sweet wife, Emily, and Cameron Lewis as Buddy’s adorable half-brother, Michael.

If you’re a fan of the original movie, you’ll definitely appreciate this stage musical adaptation. If you’ve never seen the film, this successfully stands on its own as an enjoyable musical comedy for audiences of all ages. After all, we could all use some Christmas cheer this time of year. North Carolina Theatre's production of Elf the Musical is currently running at A.J. Fletcher Opera Theatre through December 17th.

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