by Lynn Marie Macy · December 12, 2014
If you have seen one too many productions of A Christmas Carol and still want some light-hearted holiday fun - pack the kids into the car and head to a performance of Elf at Paper Mill Playhouse. This is most definitely a show for children but it is also a production that everyone in the family can appreciate. Based on the 2003 Will Farrell movie of the same name, this musical has more genuine heart, less out and out nonsense and loads of Christmas cheer.
The Book, by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, Music by Matthew Sklar and Lyrics by Chad Beguelin successfully convey this simple tale of human born Buddy the Elf who leaves the North Pole to find his human family in New York City with charm, fun and holiday spirit. I found myself tapping my toes and noticing the smiles on all the faces around me. The song in Act I, "Sparkejollywinklejinglley", is entertaining and as silly (in a good way) as it sounds and "A Christmas Song" will flip even the most dedicated holiday humbug into the spirit of the season.
The sets by Matthew Smucker are flexible, colorful and truly assist in taking the audience on marvelous journey from the North Pole to all the iconic locales in New York City. The ice skating scene is especially evocative and fun. Lights by Charlie Morrison and sound by Randy Hansen beautifully enhance the visuals and our imaginations. But a special mention must go to costume designer David C. Woolard and coordinator Irma Brainard and their team for the heroic achievement of colorfully costuming twenty-six actors playing multiple characters with dozens of lightning fast costume changes. Quite an achievement!
Kudos must also go to director Eric Ankrim and Choreographer Josh Rhodes for assembling a splendid cast and keeping the creative staging, dancing and set changes moving at high energy and non-stop pacing. The children in the audience were rapt as the story unfolded before them.
The cast is lead by Paul C. Vogt as a sardonic but loveable Santa Claus and James Moye as the hapless but warm Buddy who keeps us rooting for him. Robert Cuccioli and Heidi Blickenstaff who play Walter and Emily Hobbs, Buddy’s father and step-mother are believable and perfectly grounded in reality yet able to let loose when the moment calls for it. Jake Faragalli as their son and Buddy’s human brother sings with the voice of a cherub and wins the audience’s admiration. The large and remarkable ensemble is wonderfully versatile and all their talented abilities make the show irresistible enough to bring out the “inner child” in anyone.
If anything the production at two and a half hours might be a little too long - but I can also imagine a youngster never wanting a show, complete with sparking lights, flying sleighs and falling snow, to end. Paper Mill Playhouse would be a warm and happy family destination in your holiday calendar.