Let’s just be honest about what Elf the Musical really is, at its core: fluffy fun. It’s not out to make an impact or change the world; it’s out to put a smile on your face and, if it’s lucky, to put you in the Christmas spirit in early November. Thankfully, it’s successful on both accounts.
Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin have written a fine, though hasty, book adaptation of the New Line Cinema film, which starred Will Ferrel and Zooey Deschanel. The book turns on a dime and launches through the story; it omits whole characters and situations. Though, that’s no real fault of their own; how would they possibly do a Santa’s sleigh chase like the film on stage? (Unless you brought on Julie Taymor…) Despite that, the book works. Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin wrote the music and the lyrics, respectively, and the team created some real catchy numbers. Some songs hang with you, and you’ll hum them all the way out to your car.
Elf tells the story of Buddy the Elf, a human child raised by elves in the North Pole, who leaves everything he knows to find his real father in New York City, the gruff and all-business Walter Hobbs. Christine Peters’ beautiful, big sets; Paul Miller’s warm, brilliant lighting; and Gregg Barnes’ flashy costumes all add to the heightened atmosphere of this world. Through his journey and discoveries, Buddy brings Christmas cheer back to the people of New York, giving Santa the boost he needs to finish his yearly task of delivering presents to all the boys and girls.
The talent here is truly wonderful. Will Blum’s Buddy is appropriately jolly, while still holding the truth of the character — not an easy feat here. His voice is magnificent and his timing is impeccable. Lindsay Nicole Chambers’ Jovie, the unlikely love interest to our hero, is edgy, with a voice that can make your jaw drop. Her Act Two number, “Never Fall in Love (With an Elf)” is a real show-stopper.
The Hobbs family is made up of Walter (Larry Cahn), his wife, Emily (Julia Louise Hosack), and their son, Michael (Noah Marlow). They work very well together. Hosack’s vocal talents are strong but not showcased enough; out of nowhere, she rode notes in the stratosphere in “There Is a Santa Claus,” causing the whole audience to cheer. Marlow had great vocal strength and presence; he held his own well against the force that is Blum’s Buddy. A wonderfully energetic ensemble helps support the principals, most of them having their own stand-out moments.
If Elf weren’t a tour, it could very well become as another Triangle holiday staple, even in the fairly saturated market that already exists. However, the show rolls out of here on Sunday November 17th, and moves on to another theater in another city. So, get your ticket while you can; and let the holiday spirit in a little early this year. It’s worth it.
SECOND OPINION: Nov. 13th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Glenn McDonald: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/11/13/3367556/elf-the-musical-brings-early-holiday.html; Nov. 13th Durham, NC Indy Week review by Zack Smith: http://www.indyweek.com/artery/archives/2013/11/13/nc-theatres-elf-is-lovely-but-forgettable-holiday-fare. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Nov. 11th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2013/11/elf-the-musical-is-a-modern-day-christmas-classic/.)
Broadway Series South and the North Carolina Theatre present ELF THE MUSICAL at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 and 15 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16 and 17 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $34.70-$105.00 (including fees).
Duke Energy Center Box Office: 919-996-8700 or firstname.lastname@example.org (information only).
North Carolina Theatre Box Office: 919-831-6941, ext. 6944.
Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/1732687.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-996-8707, email@example.com, or http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/broadway-series-south/group-sales.
SHOW: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/elf-4064 and http://www.nctheatre.com/shows/elf-the-musical.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.elfontour.com/.
Broadway Series South: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/broadway-series-south and https://www.facebook.com/BroadwaySeriesSouth.
North Carolina Theatre: http://www.nctheatre.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/pages/North-Carolina-Theatre/24276860186.
Elf (2003 film): http://www.wbshop.com/product/code/1000032515.do (official DVD page), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elf_%28film%29 (Wikipedia), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0319343/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://www.facebook.com/buddytheelf (Facebook page).
Elf the Musical (2010 Broadway musical): http://www.elfmusical.com/index.php (official website), http://www.elfontour.com/ (official tour website), http://www.mtishows.com/show_detail.asp?showid=000416 (Music Theatre International), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elf_the_Musical (Wikipedia), and http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=488283 (Internet Broadway Database).
Matthew Sklar (music): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Sklar (Wikipedia).
Chad Beguelin (lyrics): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chad_Beguelin (Wikipedia).
Bob Martin (book): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Martin_%28comedian%29 (Wikipedia).
Thomas Meehan (book): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Meehan_%28writer%29 (Wikipedia).
NETworks Presentations, LLC (producer): http://www.networksontour.com/ (official website).
Jesse R. Gephart is a Raleigh, NC-based actor, director, and reviewer. A Gainesville, FL native, he earned a degree in Theatre Performance in 2005 from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. Gephart also knows a thing or two about elves. On Dec. 13-15 and 20-22, he will reprise his critically accalimed role as David Sedaris/Crumpet the Elf in the The SantaLand Diaries as part of part of Theatre in the Park‘s second-stage series. To read more of Jesse Gephart’s reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/jesse-r-gephart/.