It is not very often that one can transform a solid entertainment for the family from film to a live staged musical, and have it be as strong as the original. In particular one that had all the warmth and charm of “Elf”, that 2003 “beloved” film that made Will Ferrell a little more special, and where Bob Newhart won the hearts of a whole new generation. The stage version, that is now on the stage at The Cadillac Palace Theatre ,as part of the Broadway In Chicago season, is a festive and cute holiday entertainment, and although the star,Will Blum is very close to Ferrell ( and possibly a little Seth Rogen and Conan Obrien mixed in) the musical version falls a little flat.
Not because of the story, which is about Buddy ( the aforementioned Blum) who has been living at the North Pole , as an Elf all his life. Turns out his mother passed away when he was enjoying his first Christmas and he snuck into Santa’s bag and was not found out until they got back to the Pole- so here he is almost 30 and he finds out he is not a small person ( at six feet, he might have guessed) and doesn’t fit in. Santa tells him that his real father is still alive, living in New York and sends Buddy off to find his true life.
Buddy finds that his dad is not in the holiday spirit and in fact seems to be a very unhappy man. His wife and son cannot seem to get to him, but with the arrival of buddy comes the arrival of new awakenings for not just Buddy, but for his dad, Walter( Larry Cahn), his step-mother,Emily ( the lovely Julia Louise Hosack, his half brother, Michael ( deftly handled by Noah Marlowe) and the love of his life,Jovie ( the incredible Lindsay Nicole Chambers, who truly shows that good things do come in small packages).
The book (Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin) and the music (Matthew Sklar) with lyrics (Chad Beguelin) are so-so in telling the story that the movie told so well. Yes there are laughs and a few spots of sentiment as Buddy brings Holiday Cheer back to “The Big Apple”- we also must hand it to the charming Ken Clement as Santa, who makes the telling of the story feel almost real.
Direced by Sam Scalamoni and choreographed by Connor Gallagher on a set that truly looks like that of a bus and truck road show* by Christine Peters, I found this show to appear as one might see in a Community Theater, somewhere in Iowa. Our local Community Theater would never touch this show, but if they did, it would far surpass what is on the stage at The Cadillac Palace.
But, it is the Holiday season and I certainly do not want to act “Grinch-like” so considering the tickets start at $18 and the kids in the audience seemed to enjoy it more than the adults, let’s say, if you loved the movie ( and I am sure if you did, you have seen it several times) you will walk away with a warm feeling about the live show. While you may not remember the songs , you will enjoy the solid performance that Blum brings to his portrayal of Buddy.
Being a holiday presentation, “Elf,The Musical” will only be here through December 15th with performances as follows:
Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.
Wednesdays at 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. ( except Turkey Day)
Fridays at 7:30 p.m. ( 2 p.m. on 11/29)
Saturdays 2 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
The show runs approx. 2 hours including 15 minutes/ well maybe 20 for intermission so the kids could have a “potty break” and the parents could purchase souveneirs- Bah, Humbug- why not make it a 90 minute show and keep everyone in their seats with their phones kept off. By the way, Santa’s opening announcements about the phones and candy wrappers was pure gold!
To order your tickets, you can visit any of the Broadway In Chicago theaters,call the Broadway In Chicago Ticketline at 800-775-2000, go to any Ticketmaster outlet or online, www.BroadwayInChicago.com
The Cadillac Palace Theatre is located at 151 West Randolph Street ( at laSalle) and there are numerous parking facilities in the area , as well as lunch an ddinner spots as well.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Elf,The Musical”
* Bus and Truck Road Show- these are the cheaper sets and costues that look like the Broadway originals that are designed to pack up easily, be loaded on the truck, while the actors board a bus and off they go to the next city, where they unpack, have a tech rehearsal and do the show until it is time to do it all over again. Wow, an actor’s life is real cool, isn’t it?