Tuesday, November 16, 2010
elf You! elf Me!
I didn't know I needed a little Christmas, right this very minute, until this weekend, when I had the pleasure of seeing elf, a brand new Christmas musical on Broadway. I'm generally skeptical of books made into movies or movies made into Broadway shows or candy made into gum (have you ever tasted Razzles? Don't. They're horrible), and considering it is most people's opinion that Will Ferrell "makes" the 2003 motion picture Elf, how could another elf compete? But elf The Musical succeeds.
If you haven't seen the movie Elf, and don't mind a spoiler of the Broadway story, here's a synopsis. Buddy, an orphaned infant, is found by Santa in his pack after a round of delivering gifts around the globe one Christmas. Santa and his elves raise Baby Buddy in Christmastown as their own, and Buddy knows no other life despite the fact that he's terrible at making toys and three times the size of his "brethren." One day they mistakenly spill the beans in front of Buddy, and Santa has to come clean. Buddy finds out that he's not an elf, but an unbeknownst product of a college relationship his human biological dad had with a woman now-deceased. And 20 years later, Buddy's Dad is a very grumpy workaholic executive in New York City who is on Santa's "Naughty List." Buddy decides to go to New York to find his father and be the "World's Greatest Son," but what he doesn't realize is that his father is married with young son. More important, none believe in Santa nor the spirit of Christmas. This becomes Buddy's mission.
Despite Will Ferrell's absence from the stage version, elf the Musical does have a little star power: Santa is played by the appropriately jolly George Wendt of Cheers fame, and it's hard not to fall in love with Sebastian Arcelus' Buddy the Elf. Santa gives Buddy the following advice before he embarks on his trip from the North Pole to New York City which is basically, "Many pizza places in NYC claim to be Ray's Original pizza; but there's only one original, and it's on 6th Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets..."
The rest of the cast is delightful, all sing and dance their way through Buddy's story well and with humor that the adults find funny without offending the tykes and the music is festive enough to get a Grinch like myself in the holiday mood. "The Story of Buddy the Elf," for example, is one remarkablly peppy tune in which a toddler couldn't help himself from singing the chorus during the quiet scene following its introduction). But what most impressed me about the show was the incredible set design by David Rockwell and beautiful costumes by Gregg Barnes. The towering, grey, realistic art deco office buildings reminded me of my view of downtown Manhattan. Buddy stands out in Jolly the Green Giant green, and when he's with New Yorkers, they're dressed in earthtones. It was the cheerful, gorgeous, jewel toned, beaufully handcrafted elf costumes that made the show for me; they popped against the backdrops, and I was actually mesmerized by them.
New York is a Christmas kind of town, and at this time of year, it's the best place to get into the holiday spirit. I attended a matinee of elf where many seats were occupied by families with children. Well-behaved, children, I might add, because elf held their attention. Now that I'm a mother, I thought about bringing my son to a show like this when he's older. Unlike Radio City's Christmas Spectacular, which is a Manhattan institiution, definitely, but in my opinion, a little long for a little kid, elf the Musical is a pint-sized perfection.