Elf-The Broadway Musical (to use its full title) has merrily dropped off for a short stay in Omaha. This traveling company bag-full of goodies stays charming throughout. It has plenty of delightful songs, contemporary jokes to please adult folks, cute choreography and very inventive sets. The package should please everyone.
Moreover, the capable cast members, ably directed by Sam Scalamoni, interpret the cheery but rather simple fundamentals of the story and characters with unpushy polish. The leading role of Buddy (the Elf) is played by Will Blum, who sings with a good voice, romps, leaps, twirls and dances with unceasing energy.
This Elf is a spin-off of the 2003 non-musical movie of the same name starring Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, and Zooey Deschanel which it much resembles. The script for the musical is by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, which, no doubt, accounts for the clever dialogue. Meehan, as the program book will tell you, has won two Tony Awards and Martin got one for The Drowsy Chaperone.
The bouncy, mainstream 1950s-like pop song-sounding music is by Matthew Sklar and the lyrics by Chad Beguelin. Both have done well in creating numbers with a lot of appeal, way above average for this sort of thing.
The plot, in short, concerns a non-short elf in Santa’s North Pole workshop, Buddy, who has grown considerably above the other physically- abbreviated members of the in-house toy-making crew. It turns out that Buddy, a newly delivered human baby, crawled into Santa’s sack during the annual gift delivery rounds and was adopted into the Claus family. But, upon reaching man-sized scale, Buddy is encouraged by Santa to travel to New York and find his Dad. That man, Walter, heads a children’s books publishing company, which he cherishes as a source of profit rather than as something he loves. Walter is one of those stock characters in children’s stories in which the father’s sourness needs to be converted to sweetness.
Buddy’s innocence is the focus for good funny lines and situations and for much of what happens. During his Christmas season visit to New York, Buddy learns some of the rites, rituals and attitudes of New York City life while staying with Walter, Walter’s second wife Emily and their son Michael. Soon Buddy meets and becomes attracted to Jovie. A secondary theme dwells on Walter’s failure to come up with a new, bestselling kids’ book.
The long first act in this two and half hour experience moves along effortlessly and smoothly, never dragging and is often the source for gags about New York, characterized as too sophisticated to harbor any belief in the existence of Santa Claus. By which, thereby, hang events in the more earnest second act.
Among the imaginative elements of the staging is where North Pole elves are personified by ensemble members on their knees. And a simulation of ice skating at Rockefeller Center adds appeal. Moreover Christine Peters’ sets have stylish designs while effectively maintaining a balance between reality and friendly fantasy.
As for the performances, Julia Louise Hosack stands out with fine voice as Buddy’s stepmother Emily and Noah Marlowe does very well portraying her sophisticated New York City-right 12 year old son, Michael. Omaha’s own Kevyn Morrow has a supporting role as the agreeable manager of Macy’s Christmas department. He also doubles in other roles as do many members of this 22 person cast. He’s a Northwest High graduate, and starred as Coalhouse Walker Jr. in Ragtime at Omaha Community Playhouse in 2006.
In the major and only central role of Buddy, Will Blum’s generic take on cuteness never comes across with the potential lovability the character inherently has. But what Blum does will no doubt please most people, since few are likely to think about this sort of thing or care. After all, we’re not talking about a great musical, but rather about very good holiday entertainment.
And now that this version of Elf has had two successful holiday seasons on Broadway and has come to further life in several North American tours, you can be sure that it will be around for a long time to come.
Elf The Broadway Musical continues through Sunday, November 24 at the Orpheum Theater, 409 S.16 St. Omaha. Wednesday and Thursday, November 19, 20 and 21, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, November 22, 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, November 23, 2:00 and 8:00 p.m.; Sunday, November 24, at 1:30 and 7:00 p.m. $30-$85. More info at http://www.TicketOmaha.com. or at http://www.ElfTheMusicalOnTour.com. or 402.345.0606