Another Hollywood film gets a musical makeover with Family friendly results. "Elf" is loosely based on the 2003 Will Ferrell vehicle in which a "human" orphan finds himself in Santa’s gift bag on the way back to the North Pole, and grows up believing he is an elf. Buddy, the elf in question is aware of his enormous size and poor toy-making abilities, but not aware of his human origins.
The story opens with Santa reminiscing about times past, and in true Holiday style opens a story book for us to follow on the origins of Buddy the Elf. We open at the North Pole’s "Christmastown" in which the other elves sing the praises of what it really means to work with Santa.
As the other elves let slip in a conversation with Santa that Buddy is human, our hero is crestfallen, but also learns that his birth father is alive and well and living in New York. So begins the journey to the Empire State building and meeting with real Dad Walter "Worlds Greatest Dad."
The production is sprinkled with tons of glittery set pieces and the musical numbers are well staged. "Sparklejollytwinklejingley" and "A Christmas Song" are showstoppers. The first act is family fun at its best, but as we encounter our second act, there are some jarring moments.
During his date with potential love interest Jovie, Buddy is told by her that she’ll be a little less "bitchy" if he is a bit less "elf-y," and during a musical number set at a Chinese restaurant our waitress is a cringe-worthy stereotype. The one moment where a male office worker is picked up and spun around by Buddy he proclaims, "I already have a boyfriend" prompts the elf to say that "you can never have too many" got a few laughs; the others were merely uncomfortable bits.
There is no absence of Christmas cheer in either act, but the second brings us to the acceptance of Buddy by his human family, as well as romance for him and the redemption of Walter and New Yorkers in general. Matt Kopec’s (Buddy) performance is nothing less than exuberant, Kate Hennnies’ Jovie is great as the cynical city girl.
Gordon Gray’s Santa is perfect; the rest of the cast including Jen Bechter as Deb, Drew Pulver as Walter and Connor Barth as Michael are competent in their roles. Only Julia Louise Hosack’s Emily matches the fun of Kopec’s performance.
"Elf" features songs by Tony Award Nominees Matthew Skylar and Chad Beguelin ("The Wedding Singer"), book by Tony Award Winners Thomas Meehan ("Annie," "The Producers," "Hairspray") and Bob Martin ("The Drowsy Chaperone"). The production was directed by Sam Scalamoni and choreographed by Connor Gallagher.