Thursday, December 3, 2015

elf - The Broadway Musical - A Review

Santa Claus.  Elves.  Snow.  Tidings of joy.  Festive theatre goers.  Children of all ages.

These are just some of the sites you will encounter this week at the historic Fox Theatre when it welcomes,  "elf, The Broadway Musical" to stage.

The holiday classic movie, elf, has been transformed into a musical.  Yes.  You heard me correctly.  A musical.

To be truthful with you, I was excited.  My boys and I love this movie.  We love Will Ferrell.  We love the premise of the movie, and we love the quirky elf's personality.  It's one of those classic holiday movies, like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, that lives on from year to year with its own cult following.

So, to say I didn't have high hopes for the play would not be correct.

It looked like several people in attendance had the same idea.  Men in bright green Buddy the Elf vests.  A whole group of people in elf t-shirts.  Small children everywhere, dressed in their best holiday attire.

So, I believe we were all in accord.  High hopes to see the story we love so much.

Alas, however, what we were delivered left a little to be desired...

Don't get me wrong.  The talent in this play was superb.  Gabrielle Mirabella as Emily Hobbes was fantastic.  Daniel Patrick Smith as Buddy was also a supreme talent.  But - it's not the talent that was lacking.  It was the story line.

For instance, let me explain.  I brought a guest with me to the performance.  A person that had never seen the motion picture version of elf before.  She didn't "get" the cult following or most of the humor of the play.  Places where the audience laughed out loud, she sad motionless and quiet.

In fact, as the first act progressed and I, too, lost interest in the story line, I began to look around.  Most of the people sitting around me were either scrolling through their phones, yawning, or also sitting motionless and not laughing.  By the second act, several of the people sitting around us had left during intermission and a few more left at the beginning of the second act (which I think was actually much stronger than the first).  Lines like, "Santa?  I know him!" brought very little laughter.

Such a shame.  The movie is joyous and fun and catchy.  The musical is a brief "cliff notes" version of the movie - leaving most of the substance out and the foundations upon which the ties of family and love are built around.

My friend asked me on the way home what certain parts meant because, if you had not seen the movie, the pieces of the story didn't seem to thread together very well.  On several occasions, I had to explain the movie to her and what was going on within a particular scene.

Most of the songs were done well, but a few just weren't catchy.  I think the play could have been so much more.  Could have captured Buddy and his zest for life and love and family so much better.  In fact, to prove this point -- one of the last lines of the evening?

Buddy and his new wife Jovie, along with their new baby, are visiting Santa and Mrs. Claus at the North Pole (somewhat reflective of the movie's ending), but Buddy announces to the audience something like this (don't hold me to this verbatim, but you will get the idea), "I love hugs!  I love singing after hugs.  In fact, I got married and learned a whole new kind of hug and I sang at the end of it and now we have a baby!"  WHAT?

Is that even appropriate for this play or for the myriad of children in the audience?  Maybe it just went over their heads, but the grownups in the audience caught it for sure.

I don't know.  Maybe it's just hard taking a beloved holiday movie and twisting it around a bit.  I know the people with children sitting behind us left during intermission.  This just wasn't the same Buddy or the same elf story.  Too many twists on the original tale and not enough of the original story line.  It was like a skeleton of the original with all the skin and internal mechanisms missing.

If you love Buddy the elf and his holiday movie making the television rounds right now, keep an open mind when you venture out to see the musical.  Maybe it was just me.  But I wouldn't go see this play again.  Just not at all what I envisioned.

If you go see it and have a different opinion, I'd love to know or hear about it.  Chat me up on facebook or leave a comment below.  Maybe I missed the mark somehow, but I'd love to hear your thoughts!

NETworks Presenations' elf will be playing The Fox Theatre through Sunday (December 6).  To get tickets, you can visit The Fox Theatre's website.

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