Washington DC must have been on Santa’s “nice” list this year as we have been treated to a holiday run of the delightfully sweet Elf the Musical now in performances at The Kennedy Center’s Opera House. Elf the Musical is based on the popular movie, Elf, starring Will Farrell and Zooey Deschanel. The stage musical version, directed with a high dosage of energy by Sam Scalamoni, has much of the film’s charm and is geared more heavily toward families by playing up the holiday themes and opting for more family friendly humor.
Elf the Musical tells the story of Buddy, one of Santa’s elves, who discovers he is actually a human who had accidentally snuck his way as a baby to the North Pole. Buddy seeks his birth father in New York City and his arrival turns his father’s family and workplace on its head.
The show features a sugary sweet score of holiday-sounding ditties by Tony nominees Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (both of whom also wrote the score of The Wedding SInger ) that start off a bit bland but steadily improve as the show moves along. Particularly notable are “I Believe in You,” “Nobody Cares About Santa” (a riotous number featuring a number of dancing fake Santas), “A Christmas Song,” and “Never Fall in Love.”
The songs are bolstered by the peppy choreography of Connor Gallagher, which really takes off in the second act on “Nobody Cares About Santa” and “The Story of Buddy.” The comical book is by Tony Award winners Thomas Meehan (Annie, the Producers and Hairspray) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone).
The cast is made up of a talented ensemble. Will Blum’s appropriately goofy Buddy is reminiscent of the character Elder Cunningham from The Book of Mormon, a role which Blum in fact did play on Broadway. Larry Cahn is an effective Walter, Buddy’s job-obsessed birth father. Julia Louise Hosack and Noah Marlowe play a wonderful mother-son team of Emily and Michael that especially excel with “There is a Santa Claus.” Lindsay Nicole Chambers, as Buddy’s love interest Jovie, sings in beautiful voice, particularly on “Never Fall in Love.”
The colorful set design by Christine Peters captures the feel of a colorful children’s book brought to life while Greg Barnes’ costumes effectively conjure up the holiday spirit of the show.
Elf the Musical offers great fun for the entire family. Head over to The Kennedy Center for some yuletide joy as we enter the heart of the holiday season.
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.