From the North Pole to New York

Elf, the Christmas musical now on stage at London’s Grand Theatre is an endearing show, thanks to a funny, well-written script, and a six foot four Elf who can deliver the lines. Liam Tobin is perfect as Buddy the Elf: He’s taken the best that Will Ferrell had in the movie version of Elf, but his portrayal of the 30 year old child-like character is more reminiscent of Tom Hanks in 1988 movie Big. Either way, Tobin has made Buddy very lovable and almost believable.Elf- Buddy and Santa

In case you aren’t familiar with the story, Santa himself comes out to read the book and basically acts as narrator. He tells what happened 30 years ago – a baby at an orphanage crawled into his bag and was brought back to the North Pole. The Elves decide to raise the baby as their own, and he grew to 6 foot 4, still believing he was an elf. Unfortunately, he didn’t have all the necessary Elf skills, and his toy output is not up to par: he only made 85 Etch-a-Sketches by 10:00 a.m. He’s so bad at toy-making that he calls himself a “cotton-headed ninny-muggins”. So Santa decides it’s time to tell Buddy he’s not an elf, but a human, with a father in New York City. He sends Buddy off to find his father. Santa has an ulterior motive here. Buddy’s father is on the Naughty List, for not believing in Santa – and Santa needs everyone to believe, because the spirit of Christmas is what powers his sleigh. (He had to let the reindeer go, after complaints from PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.)

Off Buddy goes, finding his way around NYC, locating his father and convincing his father, step-mother and little brother that he is an Elf, while dressed in yellow tights and a green velvet Elf suit. And while it takes some time, he successfully saves Santa’s sleigh, and revives the Christmas spirit.

Costumes are delightful – the Elves (which include 10 very talented local children) have a variety of wildly colourful outfits with hilarious hats. The set looks like a child’s pop-up story book, filled with cute 3-D cut-outs.

Neil Barclay is an excellent Santa Claus, and also doubles as the nasty Mr. Greenway with no Christmas spirit. Anwyn Musico plays a very sweet Jovie, Buddy’s eventual girlfriend. Musico, from Ingersoll, is a High School Project alumna.

Justin Eddy is a standout as Buddy’s step-brother. The grade nine student from H. B. Beal Secondary School is an excellent singer with the acting chops to boot. He and Tobin have great chemistry on stage and are delightful together.

Ian Simpson as Buddy’s dad moves from the bad workaholic father to fully accepting his Elf-like son, while Cara Hunter as the step-mom makes the transition from Santa non-believer to a true Christmas soul.

Especially enjoyable is Diana Coastsworth as Deb, office assistant to Buddy’s father. Coatsworth has excellent comedic timing and a stage presence that draws in the audience. Also offering many laughs is Genny Sermonia first as the adorable Shawanda the Elf, and later as the hilarious, but miserable (and possibly politically-incorrect) Chinese waitress.

The ensemble is very talented, playing multiple roles as well as singing and dancing. One of my favourite scenes is the bedraggled department store Santas singing the blues and dancing, complete with assorted high kicks. Kudos to all the kids in the Children’s Chorus – all are enthusiastic singers and make an excellent effort at tap dancing – and they are absolutely adorable as assorted elves. Special shout-out to Jacob Wilcox, the kid on Santa’s knee with attitude, and to Lilly Bartlam and Zoe Brown, the tiniest and cutest elves.

Elf is selling out quickly, so book your tickets now. It’s one of those shows that a multi-generational family can enjoy together, and it will enhance the Christmas spirit needed to get Santa’s sleigh in the air on December 24!

Elf continues at the Grand Theatre, London until January 4th. Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593 or visit www.grandtheatre.com.

Book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin
Music by Matthew Sklar
Lyrics by Chad Beguelin
Directed by Susan Ferley
Choreographed by Kerry Gage
Musical direction by Ryan DeSousa
Performed by Liam Tobin, Anwyn Musico, Neil Barclay, Ian Simpson, Cara Hunter, Justin Eddy, Diana Coatsworth and Ensemble & Children’s Chorus
Grand Theatre, London
November 20 to January 4, 2013
Reviewed by Mary Alderson


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