Buddy is No Cotton-Headed Ninny Muggins
This Christmas season, a very tall elf named Buddy is dancing on stage at the Hamilton Theatre in Cambridge He is hilarious, but his story will bring tears to even the most cynical eyes. If you’re a fan of Drayton Entertainment’s fairy tale pantos, you will recognize Buddy.
The too-tall elf is being played by Tim Porter who you will know as Chop, Chop Woody; Splish, Splash Wishy; Hi, Hi Buttons; and S’up Super Simon from his four different appearances in Drayton’s delightful pantos. Porter gives us the perfect Buddy, balancing silliness with the tender moments.
Buddy was made famous by Will Ferrell in the 2003 movie Elf, with the live musical adaptation opening on Broadway in 2010. In this endearing story, an orphaned baby mistakenly crawls into Santa Claus’ sack and is taken back to the North Pole. Santa and his elves decide to raise the child as an elf, but he soon grows taller than all the other elves. At age 30, Buddy learns that he’s actually a human being and, with Santa’s encouragement, heads off to New York City in search of his father, Walter Hobbs.
Buddy learns that Walter is on the naughty list and his son, Michael, doesn’t even believe in Santa. In his childlike naivety Buddy blunders his way along, angering his father and messing up at his job as a department store elf. He falls for the jaded but kind-hearted Jovie; however, he arrives too late for their date. Nevertheless, Buddy is determined to win over his birth family and his girlfriend, and in doing so, he restores their Christmas spirit.
Neil Aitchison, best known at Drayton Entertainment for his portrayal of the lovable hobby-horse-riding Mountie, continues in a red coat, this time as Santa Claus. As Santa, he is also the narrator, and his dialogue is sprinkled with typical Neil jokes – If he has to give up his work as Santa Claus, he says he is going to call his brother-in-law who has a Tim Horton’s in Harriston. Aitchison is perfect as the jolly Christmas character and Buddy’s mentor.
Katie Kerr plays Jovie, the fellow department store elf, who at first dismisses Buddy as crazy, but soon appreciates his kind heart. Kerr sings “SparkleJollyTwinkleJingley” with energy, then breaks our hearts with “Never Fall in Love with an Elf”. Kerr’s beautiful voice makes us see why you should fall in love with her.
Young Thomas Winiker plays Michael Hobbs, Buddy’s new found little brother. Winiker is a delight – you may remember him as little Les in Newsies or Benji in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. I’m sure we’ll see more of the talented Winiker as he grows up on stage.
Robin Hutton as the mother Emily Hobbs, and Brad Rudy as the father Walter Hobbs, are both very well cast. Hutton and Rudy both take us from cynical disbelief to enchantment. Gabrielle Jones adds comedy as Deb, Mr. Hobbs’ busy secretary, while George Joyce is the formidable Mr. Greenway, and Ray Hogg is the taskmaster at Macy’s department store.
The ensemble is strong with high-energy dance numbers and powerful singing. An audience favourite is the grumpy Santa dance number, and the full ensemble tap dances are perfectly synchronized. The choreography bears the mark of Michael Lichtefeld with his signature crisp dance and fast-paced show. A Broadway choreographer, he has directed some of Drayton’s best productions. Costumes, lighting and special projections add to the Christmas magic.
Elf – The Musical is a perfect family Christmas show. It’s funny and charming, without being sickly sweet. There are laughs for the parents and grandparents as well as the kids. It is already 90 percent sold out and has been extended once, but there are rumours that it may be extended again.
Elf continues with eight shows a week until December 29 (Extended to January 5, 2020) at The Hamilton Family Theatre, Cambridge. Tickets are available at 519-621-8000 or visit www.draytonentertainment.com
Photo: Tim Porter with the elves in Elf. Photo by Hilary Gauld Camilleri.
Elf – The Musical
Book by Thomas Meehan & Bob Martin
Music by Matthew Sklar
Lyrics by Chad Beguelin
Based on the fim by David Berenbaum
Directed & Choreographed by Michael Lichtefeld
Musical Direction by Steve Thomas
Performed by Tim Porter, Neil Aitchison, Vaness Cobham, Ryan Gifford, Ray Hogg, Robin Hutton, Gabrielle Jones, George Joyce, Katie Kerr, Anthony MacPherson, Luke Opdahl, Gregory Pember, Reece Rowat, Ainsley Alyssa Roy, Brad Rudy, Jennifer Thiessen, Margaret Thompson, Sarah Vance, Thomas Winiker.
Drayton Entertainment Production
Hamilton Family Theatre, Cambridge
November 20 to December 29, 2020 EXTENDED TO JANUARY 5, 2020
Reviewed by Mary Alderson