God did I need this! I was afraid I was turning into Ebenezer Theater Scrooge. This was the 4th show in a row that was an adaptation of a book or film that I love and the first three resulted in negative reviews. Stages Theatre Company has renewed my faith in theater with Elf the Musical Jr.! Frankly, I had gone into this production in light of the last week with lowered expectations knowing there would be a cast made up mostly of school aged theatre students and adjust my critical gaze accordingly. Completely unnecessary! This cast and production require no handicap, they were fantastic! Looking for a Holiday show to take your young kids to, or older kids, but the Children’s Theatre Company a bit out of your price range? Stages tickets will cost you about a third or less of Children’s and this productions ranks right up there With Annie.
Elf the Musical Jr. tells the story of Buddy, an orphan who as a child snuck into Santa’s bag. Santa’s elves decided to raise Buddy as their own so Buddy grew up at the North Pole believing he was an Elf. When he learns he is human and that he has a father in New York City, he sets off with Santa’s blessing to find him. Having grown up at the North Pole, Buddy is unfamiliar with the way life works in the world of humans and much of the humor comes from this fish out of water setup. Buddy finds his father along with a stepmother and half brother as well. Buddy’s father doesn’t know of his existence and assumes Buddy is insane and has him escorted out by security. He ends up in the the toy department at Macy’s and is mistaken for an employee as he’s dressed like an elf. Here he meets the toy department manager and a girl he falls in love at first sight with Jovie. Before the end of the play Buddy must connect with his new family, win over Jovie, and help the city of New York believe in Santa Clause so that his sleigh will fly again.
Elf the Musical Jr. is based on the new classic film from New Line Cinema Elf. The adaptations book is by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin with music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Chad Beguelin. The show runs about 1 hour 20 minutes with a brief intermission to get up and stretch and so the story needed to be condensed from the film. The script does a nice job of altering the films story to simplify things without losing the heart of the story. The songs were lively and fun, I especially liked “A Christmas Song” and “The Story of Buddy”. The Show’s opening song “Happy All the Time” burst forth as a promise that the show never failed to live up to. It was also with this first song that I knew I was in good hands. The Choreography by Krysti Wiita, the cast of elves, and Buddy were in perfect synchronization. You could tell how hard they had worked on their dancing by how effortlessly they seemed to be performing it. The Set Designer Joe Stanley created simple scene changes that flowed nicely. The sets conveyed the places they needed to, particularly effective was the park which really evoked the feel of a park with it’s bare branches strung with lights.
The cast led by Sayer Keeley was fantastic. Keeley though a bit short in what would be ideal in the height department for Buddy makes up for it and more with the Christmas joy he exudes. As a Senior, I sure hope he intends to continue in theater past high school. He has the stage presence to command an audience’s attention and the performing skills vocally and physically. Other standouts were Josie Turk as Jovie and Will Buckler as Michael Hobbs. Lending some adult assistance are Roy Richardson Jr. as the Macy’s Manager, Shana Eisenberg as Emily Hobbs, Bruce Rowan as Santa Claus, and Brent Teclaw as Walter Hobbs. All of them help the young performers excel and in doing so, shine as well. There is a particularly effective duet between Will Buckler and Shana Eisenberg on the song “I’ll Believe in You”. Really everyone from the main rolls down to the littlest elf were spot on and I believed them when they reminded me that the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.
For more information and to purchase tickets go to https://www.stagestheatre.org/. Elf the Musical Jr. runs through December 27th.