Al Hirschfeld Theatre, New York.
By Jessica Innes.
Magic was created within the walls of the majestic Al Hirschfeld Theatre as young and old gathered to be swept up in the enchanting Christmas tale of ‘Buddy’, a human who was raised by elves in the North Pole. Upon discovering he is a human, ‘Buddy’ sets out to find his real family in the big bad city, sprinkling New York with Christmas cheer.
The Broadway musical was heavily based on the hilarious 2003 New Line Cinema film starring Will Ferrell, leaving the cast with some big curly shoes to fill. Elf on Broadway succeeded in bringing the film’s characters to life, immersing the audience in the magic. I even overheard a little boy squeal with excitement “I hope an elf doesn’t jump in my lap!”
Sebastian Arcelus did justice to his character ‘Buddy’ and his energy and enthusiasm was contagious as he bounded around the stage like an excitable puppy. His vocal range was extremely impressive and the animation he added to each song had every member of the audience falling in love with his congenial character.
A mention must go to Matthew Gumley as Buddy’s younger brother ‘Michael’. Showing professional maturity far beyond his years, the teen prodigy wowed the audience with his piercing voice and emotive acting abilities. Gumley’s talents were beautifully showcased in “I’ll Believe in You” and “There is a Santa Clause” which he sang with his on-stage mother ‘Emily’, played by Beth Leavel. The two sung the stirring duets together in perfect unison.
Composer Matthew Sklar captured the essence of Christmas carols through musical numbers with upbeat tempos and cheery concordant harmonies. The orchestra set the mood with the use of jingling bells, glockenspiel, flute and brass instruments. A standout was the smooth blues number “Nobody cares about Santa” which was performed by an all male ensemble with remarkable strength and style. The darker tone of this number was juxtaposed against the show’s sugary sweet approach and allowed a little adult humour to be introduced. The subtle innuendos gave an excuse for the parents and more mature members of the audience to have a private chuckle. Meanwhile the children giggled as ‘Buddy’ entertained them with his melodramatic slapstick comedy.
The set design, by Tony Award nominee David Rockwell, proved his genius by creating a children’s wonderland with creative sets bursting with interactive props and projections. The sets remained thematically in tune with the storybook narration of the play and large-scale cardboard cut outs created a childlike innocence. The use of props added to the visually inspiring choreography as the company danced with tinsel, office chairs, spinning cubicles and more, proving that the whole world can be a playground.
Director and Choreographer Casey Nicholaw challenged his cast with a wide variety of dance numbers including jazz, tap and even figure skating! As ‘Jovie’ and ‘Buddy’ enjoyed a magical first date at Rockefeller Center, the ensemble performed “A Christmas Song” as they skated effortlessly across a portable ice rink that was incorporated into the set. Such ingenuity allowed the audience to believe anything was possible and reiterated the musical’s strong themes of hope and magic.
Spirits were high as the audience clapped along to the kaleidoscopic finale, which boasted some very intricate tap work. There was magic in the air and we were granted the quintessential Christmas wish…a white Christmas.
Elf is an adorable, vibrant and uplifting musical that will get the whole family into the Christmas spirit. It is a must see this holiday season.
Photos: Joan Marcus