Highly entertaining and a great big bundle of fun, “Elf the Musical,” based on the popular 2003 Will Ferrell film of the same name, absolutely makes the season bright at the Schuster Center as a Project Unlimited Star Attractions courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association.
Breezily directed by Sam Scalamoni and equipped with exuberantly crisp choreography by Connor Gallagher, this family-friendly tale concerns Buddy, an orphan inadvertently taken to the North Pole as a baby having tumbled into Santa’s bag of toys. Now an adult, Buddy has difficulty fitting in among the elves due to his huge size and poor toy-making skills. Upon realizing he’s actually human, Buddy is given permission by Santa to journey to New York City to find his long-lost father, a prominent publishing executive. As Buddy takes the Big Apple by storm in search of his true identity, he rejuvenates the city with his deep admiration for the joys of the season and falls in love in the process. This endearing tale, cleverly adapted by Tony Award-winning librettists Thomas Meehan (“Annie,” “The Producers,” “Hairspray) and Bob Martin (“The Drowsy Chaperone”), is bolstered by a tuneful, lively and poignant score by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (“The Wedding Singer”). Standout selections include peppy trio “Happy All The Time,” “Sparklejollytwinklejingley,” and “The Story of Buddy the Elf” as well as heartwarming ballad “A Christmas Song.”
As the tall, outgoing Buddy, Spenser Micetich brings wonderful earnestness, sensitivity and humor to the role without venturing into Ferrell’s overly animated psyche. The delightful Daisy Carnelia is a fittingly cynical Jovie, a department store worker eventually wooed by Buddy’s charm and innocence. Carnelia’s rendition of the scorned “Never Fall in Love” is a particular knockout. Mark A. Harmon brings rigid authority and pleasant bewilderment to his portrayal of Walter Hobbs, Buddy’s snippy, overworked father. Rachel Bahler and Wyatt Rogers shine as Walter’s wife Emily and son Michael, illuminating astonishment to the hilt in the upbeat duet “There Is A Santa Claus.” Firm featured performances extend to Mark Fishback (an enjoyably relatable Santa), Morgan Billings Smith (kooky secretary Deb), Darius J. Manuel (an appealing Store Manager), and Randy Charleville (Walter’s stern boss Mr. Greenway). The nifty ensemble supplies terrific characterizations from spirited elves to jaded New Yorkers.
Additionally, Christine Peters’ splendid storybook sets, Gregg Barnes’ colorfully character-specific costumes, Paul Miller’s expert lighting, Shannon Slaton’s fine sound design, and conductor Shane Parus’ first-rate orchestra accent this Broadway-caliber production perfectly timed to the start of the holiday season.
“Elf the Musical” continues through Nov. 27 at the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 pm. Act One: 65 minutes; Act Two: 45 minutes. Tickets are $30-$97. For tickets or more information, call Ticket Center Stage (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com.