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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

‘Elf’ spreads Christmas cheer

Director Sam Scalmoni will have everyone signing “sparklejolllytwinklejingley” as they discover their inner elf and rediscover their Christmas spirit with his adaptation of the hit Christmas movie, “Elf.”

When the curtain opens, the audience is treated to a snarky, Doritos-eating Santa Claus sitting in his recliner and relaxing after his midnight ride. Unlike the movie, Buddy’s Papa Elf, Bob Newhart, isn’t the one telling the tale, but rather Santa does a great job of establishing a fun, family friendly tone while also including the adults with a bit of sidebar humor that flies swiftly over the youngsters’ heads like his sleigh on Christmas Eve.

We’re soon introduced to Buddy, a role that comes with some ironically big, elf-shaped shoes created by Will Ferrell. The first song, “Happy All The Time,” is performed by Sam Hartley.

Buddy lives up to his billing. Hartley embraces the role and brings Buddy’s spirited, over-the-top, personality to life on the stage.

Two twinkling stars upon the Christmas tree of this production were the female leads: Buddy’s girlfriend, Jovie, who was played by Mia Weinberger, and Walter’s wife, Emily Hobbs, played by Marie Lemon.

Weinberger, who was previously on the national tour as Jovie’s understudy, had a disappointingly limited time on stage. However, she stood out in “A Christmas Song” and gained the love of the audience when she sorrowfully belted out “Never Fall in Love” after being abandoned by Buddy on their Christmas Eve date.

Lemon was the perfect mom, both to Buddy and Walter’s other son, Michael. Her multiple, endearing duets with Michael, played by Nicholas Canal who was making his national tour debut, left a soft, warm smile similar to the feeling of watching a young child excitedly and ravenously rip away the wrapping paper on Christmas morning.

As a stocking stuffer, Audra Qualley, who played the role of Walter Hobbs’ secretary, Deb, was fantastic in her role that mimicked a marshmallow on top of hot cocoa: sweet and fluffy. Her gossipy office dialogue perfectly opened up scene nine, the Hungarian Christmas story of the one-legged boy had the audience rolling in their seats, and her reactions to the main characters were priceless and hard to ignore. This is Qualley’s third tour with “Elf the Musical,” and she has clearly mastered the role.

Overall, the songs in the show were catchy, fun and extremely well choreographed. In fact, I still have “sparklejollytwinklejinglely” running through my head, but there were a few elements of the show that caused my figgy pudding to go missing and my eggnog to turn a bit rotten.

The dialogue and storytelling feels rushed and underdeveloped. I found that the dialogue tends to piggyback on the audiences’ assumed understanding of the movie plot rather than articulately weaving a plot of its own. I understand the difficultly of crafting catchy songs and non-musical transitions from a comedy movie and condensing all the information down to a reasonable two hour window, but it seemed, at times, they were trying way too hard to include that one memorable movie line.

For example, seemingly moments after he discovers his entire life is a lie and he has been a human living in an elf world, Santa forcefully pushes Buddy away to New York City. In the movie, we see Buddy go through a period of grief, questioning, soul-searching, and ultimately self-determination that he needs to find his real dad. In the musical, Santa makes the decisions for him in an effort to speed up the process.

I also was disappointed by the lack of development between Buddy and Jovie, and their relationship appeared more forced than natural. Instead, the director decided to build on the relationships between Buddy, Walter, Emily and Michael. While I thought that plot line was excellently crafted, including the songs, “In the Way,” “I’ll Believe in You,” “Just like him,” and “There is a Santa Claus,” it felt like other, interesting, plot lines were being ignored in favor of emphasizing the fact that Walter worked too much at his job. The Miles Finch angry elf scene was completely cut and replaced with a shortened comparison.

However, when I polled audience members after the entire show, the general consensus was positive; cute, funny and festive were common adjectives. To my surprise, one woman even said she liked it better than the movie.

The driving motivator for that feeling had to come from the message of the show. Near the end, Buddy soap-boxes that Christmas isn’t about gift-getting, it’s about sleeping on a futon at your relatives house, eating leftover maple syrup spaghetti for breakfast, and kissing that one special girl under the lights of a big tree. We can’t ruin Christmas. It will always come, and instead we should embrace it and get into the Christmas spirit.

So, make sure you’re not a grinch this year, and don’t go vacationing with the Kranks, get yourself into the Christmas spirit by checking out “Elf the Musical”  at the Marcus Center for Performing Arts every day this week, except Thursday. There’s no Christmas on Thanksgiving. There is no better way to enjoying some toe-tapping songs and a heart-warming message to keep you from developing the winter blues.

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