Buffalo two step over Rockettes, this year Buddy the elf descends on Manhattan to spread some hilarious holiday cheer to the world’s most impatient, rude and skeptical citizens. This Christmas, Broadway gets into the ho-ho-ho spirit of the holidays in a major way with Elf, a new musical based on the 2003 comedy starring Zooey Deschanel, James Caan and the hysterical Will Ferrell.
Much like the movie Elf tells the story of Buddy, a human who grows up in Christmastown amongst Santa and his elves and believes he too is an elf. Upon discovering that he is actually human, he also learns his father is Walter Hobbs – a man that does not believe in Santa, is on Santa’s naughty list and lives in New York City. Determined to build a connection with his father and prove that he is the world’s greatest son, Buddy sets out for the Big Apple to find Walter and spread the spirit of Christmas to New Yorkers – a necessary commodity considering Santa’s sleigh is powered by the people’s belief in Christmas.
Upon arriving in New York City Buddy finds that his father has a new family, a demanding job publishing children’s books and has no time for them or him. Eventually, Buddy does develop a relationship with his family, and along the way he delivers Christmas cheer to Macy’s, falls in love with a girl, gives his dad a great idea for new Christmas tale and helps raise Santa sleigh after he crashes in Central Park by convincing New Yorkers to believe in Santa and the true meaning of Christmas.
Elf is not just a regurgitated story with song and dance routines crammed haphazardly throughout the show, instead it is a cultivated production enhanced by super cute music and lyrics. Songs like “Christmastown”, “A Christmas Song”, “Never Fall in Love” and “The Story of Buddy the Elf” are catchy tunes that will add to your roster of favorite X-Mas jingles. The simple choreography works well with the upbeat music. Elf is not overly complicated theatre. It is a feel good family musical about the most wonderful time of the year. And the cast help to make this make this musical an above average film to theatre adaptation.
Sebastian Arcelus is a delight as the naïve, sugary sweet Buddy. His childlike demeanor is endearing and hilarious. Amy Spanger is entertaining as Jovie, Buddy’s love interest. Mark Jacoby as amusing as Walter Hobbs, the hard-ass that discovers he has a new son and a heart. Beth Leavel and Matthew Gumley are equally enjoyable as Emily and Michael Hobbs. Their duets are two of the best numbers in the show. George Wendt as Santa can bring a smile to anyone’s face. The sets are interactive and animated and are reminiscent of a children’s 3D pop up book.
The true charm of this production is that it is giddy, warm-hearted and leaves you with cozy, nostalgic feelings about Christmas – a necessary commodity since Christmas today seems more about ensuring retailers make their bottom line than spending time with loved ones, showing kindness to your neighbor and the birth of Jesus. Elf is playing at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre until January 2 and will bring out the kid in everyone. I recommend it for anyone that needs a good ole dose of Christmas spirit. You will have Sparklejollytwinklejingley time!
Photos: Joan Marcus