The Christmas classic that we all know and love, Elf, has been adapted into a stage musical. The show first premiered on Broadway in 2010, and broke box office records during its 10-week run at the Dominion Theatre in 2015. The show is now back for a limited run over the festive period.

Credit: Mark Senior

Elf follows Buddy the Elf, as he discovers he is a human not an elf, and sets off to New York City to find his biological father. There are some slight differences between the film and musical, one of the main differences is that there is no Papa Elf, instead the story is narrated by Santa himself.

Tim Goodchild’s set design varies it its effectiveness, the festively decorated Macy’s department store is a highlight of the show. Whilst other scenes utilise smaller set pieces, which clearly highlights the sheer size of the Dominion’s stage. Large staging pieces and whole changes would have been much more effective, and I really wish they had made better use of the large space they have. The staging also relies heavily on Ian William Galloway’s video projections, which appear almost cartoonish, and at times are not in-synchronisation with what’s happening onstage. For example, when the elevator is onstage, and the projections still show an animated New York skyline.

The period that the show is set in remains ambiguous throughout, there are mentions of Netflix and Santa has an iPad, which demonstrates a modern-day period. But the office has an older look to it, and Deb (Kim Ismay) appears to have been dressed in a costume left over from Grease’s wardrobe. And whilst on the topic of wardrobe, the costumes worn by the waitresses in the Chinese restaurant, could be crossing the line into cultural appropriation.

Simon Lipkin has rather large Elf shaped shoes to fill as he takes on the role of Buddy. Lipkin is energetic and endearing throughout, he is also onstage for majority of the run time, without his energy levels diminishing, even for a moment. Lipkin’s vocals are great throughout, the only issue I found is that he doesn’t quite let the iconic lines of the movie land, leaving no pause after they are spoken for the audience to digest them. But I do appreciate that the audience will have high expectations and it can be hard to make this role your own when everyone adores Will Ferrell’s performance and will probably compare it.

Tom Chambers plays Walter, Buddy’s father and Rebecca Lock plays stepmother Emily, both don’t look old enough to have a thirty-year-old son! Chambers gets to show off his tap-dancing skills in a delightful flourish towards the end, but apart from this I couldn’t help but feel that he has been miscast for the role. In the movie, Walter is grumpy, self-centred and money-hungry, he never wanted to take a day off to spend time with his son. Chambers’ performance is never quite that grumpy or self-centred, he comes across as a nice but busy man throughout, which somewhat dilutes the storyline and Walter’s character development.

Michael was played by Logan Clark on the night I went along, and Clark is without a doubt the star of this show. The stage version misses out quite a lot of the Buddy and Michael scenes, but nevertheless Clark showcases his talents – he’s a wonderful dancer and an incredible young talent. I have no doubt that he has a great career ahead of him.

Credit: Mark Senior

Georgina Castle is criminally underused as Jovie. She does incredibly well with the limited material she has been given, as in this show, the character of Jovie is rather one dimensional. We never get a clear idea of who she is, and she seems to change very quickly from someone that’s not fussed by the festive season to someone singing Christmas songs. But Castle does get one chance to properly show off her incredible vocals, I only wish the show had included more opportunities for this.

The show is filled with musical numbers by Matthew Sklar. I did find that some of Chad Beguelin’s lyrics were questionable, in the opening number there was a line about being ‘bipolar’ and another about something being so sweet it would make you diabetic. These lyrics felt unimaginative, and the bipolar line especially could be offensive to some. A lot of the musical numbers are unmemorable, as I’m writing this review the singular song I can remember is ‘A Christmas Song’.

There are some magical moments, I don’t want to give these away and spoil it for future audiences – but the ending is a great festive treat. The show does at times feel more pantomime than musical, and I even began to wonder if the show could be bettered by implementing some of the panto devices that British audiences adore. I’m sure this is a show that will be loved by many, and there were many things to enjoy here, it will definitely put you in the Christmas spirit, but some tweaks are necessary for this show to reach its full potential. But until the 7th of January 2023, you can ‘treat everyday like Christmas’ by booking a ticket to see Elf!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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