Did you know that “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.” Well, that is what Buddy the Elf says in the show called Elf The Musical which is now playing at the Kennedy Center through January 5th.
Based upon the 2003 film called Elf starring Will Ferrell, the story is about Buddy, a young human orphan who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported to the North Pole. Raised as an elf, Buddy always feels out of place. He is much taller than all the other elves and is not a good toy maker. In fact, Buddy calls himself a “cotton headed ninny muggins!” When the truth is revealed that he is a human, Santa sends Buddy on a journey to NYC to discover his birth father and to learn more about what it means to be human.
‘Elf The Musical’ is like a tasty sugar cookie with lots of colorful sprinkles on top.
The book by Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone) is faithful to the original film version. Meehan and Martin add their own comedic genius, creating a show that is funny and fun for the entire family. The writers succeed because they understand how to relate to today’s audience. Situations that include texting, ipads, and cell phones make it all the more current and comical. Meehan and Martin are surely on Santa’s “nice list” because of the quality writing they consistently deliver.
Of course what really sets this show apart from the movie is that this is a musical. The songs by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguellin (The Wedding Singer) feature a generic Broadway-style score. The song called “Sparklejollytwinklejingley” seemingly tries to copy the idea of having a fun, invented long word like the song “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins by the Sherman Brothers. While both words are fun to say, “Sparklejollytwinklejingley” still manages to sound generic and is forgettable like the rest of the songs.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the songs are not entertaining. For me, the song highlight is “Nobody Cares About Santa,” which is about a group of fake Santas at the Chung Fu Palace restaurant complaining how people no longer have the Christmas spirit. Elf agrees with the Santas saying, “Even little children think that Santa’s overrated. I kinda get the feeling that New York is jaded.” Here the music has a good beat and the lyrics move the story forward.
Fans of Will Ferrell (The original Buddy from the film) should know that Will Blum, the actor playing Buddy the Elf, does not copy off of his performance. In fact, Will Blum has more of the look and feel of SNL’s Chris Kattan than Will Ferrell. Blum is full of energy his entire performance. His child-like wonder comes through in his role, which is fitting since part of Buddy the Elf’s mission is to bring the magic of Christmas back to New York. His romantic interest, Jovie who works with Buddy at Macy’s is depressed because the holiday reminds her of her past romantic failures. Lindsay Nicole Chambers as Jovie does a fine job at going from a woman with not much hope and happiness to a woman who really believes in the magic of Christmas.
An important part of the story involves Walter Hobbs (played believably by Larry Cahn) who works at a children’s book publishing company and is Buddy’s biological father who happens to be on the naughty list. Is the support and encouragement of Buddy, Walter’s wife Emily (Julia Louise Hosack), and son Michael (Noah Marlowe) enough to make him understand the importance of family?
The costumes designed by Gregg Barnes are colorful, bright and cheery. The elves appear to be short thanks to the clever shoes on their knees, creating a fun illusion. The illusion of people ice skating is also clever with the use of simulated ice skate blade covers over roller blade wheels. The set design by Christine Peters is also colorful with all the set pieces having the style of an old-fashion children’s storybook.
Thanks to the funny book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, the energetic cast, and the bright and cheery costumes and sets, Elf The Musical is like a tasty sugar cookie with lots of colorful sprinkles on top.
Running Time: 2 and a half hours with one intermission.
Elf The Musical plays through January 5, 2014 at the Kennedy Center Opera House, 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC. For tickets and information call 202-467-5600.