To prepare for the return of Elf The Musical to the Fox Theatre, I watched the 2003 movie, Elf, on which the stage show is based. I enjoyed the adaptation more than the original.
The musical has the same premise as the film, which starred Will Farrell, James Caan, and Ed Asner. The title character, Buddy, isn’t really an elf. As a toddler, he crawled into Santa’s bag while Santa was delivering gifts to the orphanage where Buddy was taken after his mother’s death. Santa does not the discover the stowaway until they reach the North Pole.
Buddy is raised there as an elf, but he doesn’t have the same aptitude for toymaking as the others. When Buddy finds out he is human, Santa tells him about his father, Walter Hobbs, who lives in New York City. He is on naughty list and was never told of Buddy’s birth. Buddy then sets out to find his father.
Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin wrote the musical’s book. It changes many details of the screenplay to replace what works on film with what works on stage. For example, when Buddy is making his way from the North Pole to New York, a musical number takes the place a montage of the locations he passes through.
The effort to bring Buddy’s story to the stage is fully justified by the excellence of the musical numbers by composer Matthew Sklar and lyricist Chad Beguelin. The delights of Connor Gallagher’s lively choreography include a Chinese restaurant full of dancing Santas and a workshop full of elves dancing on their knees. Christine Peters’ set and Gregg Barnes’ costumes give the show an appropriate storybook atmosphere.
The cast performs admirably under Sam Scalamoni’s direction. Cody Garcia captures Buddy’s irrepressible cheerfulness. It has to be irrepressible to win over Jovie, the woman Buddy falls for while they are decorating a department store Christmas display. Tieisha Thomas’s effective portrayal gives Jovie an edge that Buddy has to wear down.
Christopher Robert Smith’s workaholic Walter softens believably under Buddy’s influence. His wife and son are winningly played by Caitlin Lester-Sams as Emily and Jaxon James as Michael. The fine supporting cast includes Mark Fishback as Santa, Jerquintez Alonzo Gipson as the store manager, Bobby Montaniz as Walter’s curmudgeonly boss, and Nakiya Peterkin as Walter’s secretary.
Elf The Musical continues through December 24 at the Fox Theatre, 527 North Grand Boulevard.
Photo by Jeremy Daniel
Cody Garcia (Buddy) and Mark Fishback (Santa) in Elf The Musical.