Yes, that Buddy the Elf.
“Elf” broke on the Christmas scene in 2003 as a film starring Will Ferrell – a film that quickly grew to “holiday classic” status. We were happy, if not surprised, when the story was converted into a Broadway musical in 2010 by Tony Award nominees Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (the duo behind “The Wedding Singer”), with a book by Tony Award winners Thomas Meehan (“Annie,” “The Producers,” “Hairspray”) and Bob Martin (“The Drowsy Chaperone”). The production is directed by veteran Sam Scalamoni, who teams up again with choreographer Connor Gallagher, with whom he worked on “Beauty and the Beast.”
If you saw the film, you already know that this is the delightfully silly tale of Buddy, a young orphan who crawls into Santa’s bag one Christmas Eve and winds up at the North Pole, where he is raised to believe that he is an elf. A really, really tall elf. Buddy is horrified when he learns the truth – that he is actually a human with a father on the “naughty” list. But being an irrepressibly spunky guy, he sets out for Manhattan on a quest to find the dad who doesn’t even know Buddy exists.
Unlike the film, the story is narrated by Santa himself, and the dialog tosses in several pop culture references to keep it current. The biggest difference, of course, is the music, which carries forward the over-the-top cheerfulness of the film with such songs as “Sparklejollytwinklejingley” and hilarious choreography using “elf” dancers who perform on their knees. Iconic New York scenes, including the skating rink in front of Rockefeller Center with its giant Christmas tree, add to the festive feel of this show.
The production stars Matt Kopec as Buddy, who somehow packs all that sugar-sprinkled cheerfulness into every song while dancing up a storm in his curly-toed elf shoes. Kate Hennies is adorable as Buddy’s cynical love interest, Jovie, and really sells the unlikely love song, “Never Fall in Love With an Elf.” Recent U of M grad Jane Bruce (see last week’s interview) shines as Buddy’s step-mom Emily, and she has a couple of lovely duos with stage son Michael, played by stand-out young singer Tyler Altomari. Matthew Alan Smith plays Buddy’s dad Walter, who is transformed by a little Christmas magic into a man worthy of Santa’s “nice” list by the end of the play.
This is a family-friendly show in the best tradition, with dialog geared toward adults in the audience, but plenty going on to keep the kids entertained. Your family can catch “Elf” at the Detroit Opera House, located at 1526 Broadway St., through December 15, 2013. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 6:30 p.m., with matinees on Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. The performance on December 5 at 7: 30 p.m. is a signed performance.
Tickets for “Elf” range from $24 to $72 and are on sale at all Ticketmaster locations, by phone at 1-800-982-2787, online, or at either the Fisher Theatre box office and the Detroit Opera House box office. For group sales (12 or more), email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (313) 871-1132.
Broadway In Detroit and Michigan Education Savings Plan (MESP) are hosting a special “Elf” Kids’ Night, with pre-show activities that begin at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 4th. Kids will have the opportunity to make their very own holiday crafts courtesy of Arts & Scraps, interact with cast members, sample free ice cream from Treat Dreams and much more. For Kids’ Night, tickets for all patrons 18 and under are free with the purchase of an adult ticket at full price on select seat locations. Visit the web page for details and to purchase tickets online.