BWW Review: ELF THE MUSICAL IS PERFECT START TO THE HOLIDAYS at Show Palace Dinner Theatre
Most people like or even love Christmas, but no one - I mean no one - LOVES (in 250 point font) Christmas like Buddy the Elf. On Tuesday afternoon, after a belly full of a delicious holiday buffet at Show Palace Dinner Theatre, we settled in for Santa's tale of a human infant baby that grew up in the North Pole only to discover in his 30s, he wasn't an elf after all. Buddy had a human father, a sort of Scrooge-like Walter Hobbs, a family-ignoring, work-obsessed children's book publisher residing in the Big Apple, who just happened to be on the naughty list.
In the North Pole, Santa's sleigh was no longer reindeer-powered due to complaints. "Thanks, PETA," grumbled Santa (exceptionally played by John B. Archibald). Santa relied solely on the world's belief in him and the magic of Christmas, which was fading more and more every day.
If you are a fan of the 2003 Will Farrell holiday classic, you'll be happy to know that some of your favorite lines and slapstick gags remain, tongue firmly planted in cheek, in the musical stage version of Buddy venturing to New York to meet his dad.
From the first jingle of bells to the grand finale, under the expert helm of music director Ken Lear, the orchestra complemented the action on stage without overpowering it.
Beautifully directed and choreographed by Charity Terrio, though it's as saccharine sweet as the chocolate syrup Buddy douses on his spaghetti, Elf The Musical is a goofy, feel-good parable, a musical adaption that works exceptionally well on stage.
Or maybe it would have been an entirely different portrayal without the fantastic acting, singing, skating, tap dancing, and dancing talents of Jeffrey Keller. Jeffrey, as Buddy the Elf effortlessly lends a childlike innocence and naivety, pure unadulterated joy, to a statuesque grown man in a green and yellow elf suit with curled-toe elf shoes. He makes ineptitude adorable.
"The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!"
When the ordinarily jovial Buddy makes a critical error for his dad and gives a heart-rending monologue near the end of the musical, it unexpectedly hits you in the gut. I heard a few sniffles in the audience.
On a stage that combined dozens of seamless set changes with gorgeous projected backdrops and lighting, Charlotte Campbell designed incredibly fun and vibrant costumes. The reindeer and elf outfits were brilliantly executed, and their "Christmastown" number - merry 3-foot high elves dancing and singing in bright, colorful garb - would bring a smile to even the Grinch's face.
Despite fear about Buddy's claim that he has Hobbs DNA, the family inevitably learns to accept the irrepressibly optimistic, eccentric Elf. Of course, it wouldn't be a storybook ending if faith in Santa wasn't reaffirmed, love didn't conquer all, and it didn't snow in Central Park in the middle of a live broadcast. But it was and it did.
Though the large cast gave a high-energy, entertaining performance and each in his own right are uber-talented, I have to call out four exceptional voices. Taylor Marrs (Walter), Juliana Levison (Jovie), Ashley Wilcox (Emily), and Caroline Anderson (Deb) have powerhouse vocals that, in certain notes, gave goosebumps.
Some of the other highlights I wrote down included the original and reprise of "A Christmas Song" and "Nobody Cares about Santa," and any - absolutely any - scene with tap-dancing.
Through a series of comic and tragic events, Buddy finds his family, a job, true love, and delivers the meaning of Christmas. This precious performance was a welcome reprieve from the real world. Elf the Musical will make you feel "Sparklejollytwinklejingley" inside. I'm pretty sure the Christmas spirit felt at the end of this feel-good show would lift Santa's sleigh sky-high.