Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Directed by Sam Scalamoni
Music Director – Nate Patten
Conductor – Roberto Sinha
Orchestrations – Doug Besterman
Vocal Arrangements – Phil Reno
Choreography by Connor Gallagher
Dance Arrangements – David Chase
Scenic Design – Christine Peters
Lighting Design – Paul Miller
Sound Design – Shannon Slaton
Costume Design – Gregg Barnes
Hair Design – Bernie Ardia
Flying Effects by ZFX, Inc.
Stage Managed by Mercedes Coley
CAST (for reviewed performance)
Santa – Ken Clement
Buddy – Eric Williams
Walter – Jesse Sharp
Emily – Lexie Dorsett Sharp
Michael – Tyler Altomari
Deb – Whitney Hayes
Store Manager – Jerrial T. Young
Jovie – Maggie Anderson
Mr. Greenway - Joel Stigliano
Ensemble – Mara Gabrielle, Timothy Grady, Billy D. Hart, Amanda Grace Holt, Jacob January, Erin Kei, Marie Lemon, Ryan Patrick Lingle, Tyler John Logan, Brian Padgett, Kristen Brooks Sandler, Nick Silverio, Maria Cristina Slye, Mia Weinberger
Reviewed Performance 11/18/2014
Reviewed by LK Fletcher, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Bass Performance Hall in downtown Fort Worth has pulled out all the stops for this holiday season. The festive lobby, with its incredible tree, beautifully appointed tables of gifts, bears, jewelry and more, sparkled and shimmered in the opulent lobby. Vendors in elf gear mingled with patrons sipping champagne in this the opening night of holiday sweaters and winter wear, while children ran back and forth ‘oohing and aahing’ over the scope of it all. All that was needed to set the stage for the season was Santa and his elves, and Bass Hall delivered with Santa, the elves and Buddy. Buddy the Elf.
Buddy isn’t really an elf (spoiler alert!). He is a human. But when Santa was delivering Christmas presents about thirty years ago, a little orphan boy (Buddy) climbed into Santa’s empty toy sack. Well, as Santa got home, he began to put away his sack and voila! Buddy! Santa brought Buddy to the workshop where he was raised by the elves, but somehow Buddy discovered he is not really an elf but that he is a human. Our boy Buddy finds out he has a father in New York City and starts walking 3000 miles to find him. When buddy shows up in his green tights and pointy hat, the story gets better and better. If you have seen the movie, you know the story.
Elf is an adorable holiday movie. Will Farrell in tights. It works. Elf The Musical works too. It is…excuse my verbosity here… cute. Really cute. It is winsome, clever, sappy, creative, shticky and cute. Take amazing storybook sets, fast-paced dialogue, a red-headed leading man in green tights and Santa as the narrator, then mix in numerous dance numbers, flying sleighs, falling snow and ice skating on stage, and you have a cute show, and cute is good.
Elf the Musical is its own piece of work. Although it is true to the movie in context, it is every inch a Broadway musical. The book by Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone) is faithful to the film version and successfully creates a show that is quick and clever for family members of all ages. Meehan and Martin are just really amusing writers. The musical is stuffed with good gags. Meehan has a gift for patter that is brilliant. I loved that gift on Broadway in The Producers and I loved it here in Fort Worth in a holiday musical. Oy Vey! The writers take Santa’s monologues and other bits and then pepper them with relevant cultural, local and technical topics. Situational comedy bits including texting, iPads, and cell phones, as well as TCU football and Dallas jokes, make Elf both current and comical. Of course, what really adds extra glitter to the show is that this is a musical! It is a big, sparkly musical. There is emphasis on song and dance and glitter. Lots of glitter. The songs by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer) feature a music- packed score of ballads, up tempos, dance numbers and comedy pieces - twenty pieces. Santa, played by Ken Clement, is wonderful. (Dear Santa, please put me on the “Nice List”. Love, LK). Clement engages the audience by being fully immersed in his big guy role. He is clever and quick and eminently likeable. Although partial to high-proof cocoa, he is a fully functional and supportive Santa. No wonder Buddy likes him so much. As Santa’s not-so-little elf, Buddy is a charmer. Actor Eric Williams is naïve and nice, worldly and winsome. He navigates through double entendres and the most hapless of comments with an easy smile and engaging persona. His is not a Will Farrell recreation but solely a performance of Mr. Williams’. A capable musical singer and dancer, he is also an adept and versatile actor. The mercurial shifts that are quintessential Buddy are sharp and vibrant. Williams’ energy and ease on stage make Buddy an endearing character and a successful role for the actor.
Buddy’s father Walter and Emily, played by Jesse Sharp and Lexie Dorsett Sharp, are married both on and off the stage. Here’s to chemistry. It is great when it works and last night it did just that. Workaholic Walter is buried in the angst of his publishing career and strong-willed Emily is unable to break the hold his misplaced priorities have on their home life. Ms. Sharp is engaging and believable as Emily. A poised and graceful performer, her role is vibrant and warm. Her vocals are capable but strained. Mr. Sharp is suitably stuffy and wonderfully warm as the role demands.
One of the brightest young talents, in the role of Michael, is Tyler Altomari. Michael is portrayed with candor, wit and amazing vocals. The young actor has a powerhouse of a voice with a clear and facile belt through an extensive range. He is incredibly expressive and musical.
Other notable players include the charming and blustery Store Manager played by Jerrial T. Young, and Deb, played by Whitney Hayes. Both of these zaftig performers give an engaging, fully-realized performance. Hayes and Young move well, sing well, and they are a wonderful compliment to the cast.
The ensemble players are versatile and busy. They earn their paychecks in the North Pole dance numbers, executing some energetic choreography . . . on their knees. (They’re elves, you see, with little curly-toe shoes on their kneecaps.) There’s also a good bit of what you might call ensemble juggling, as the elves toss toys and ornaments across the workshop.
Lighting and sound quality are seamless and effective throughout the musical. The show is highly choreographed both technically and musically. The skill level of both is evident in this capable and well-crafted production.
The scenic designs are one of the best things about this production. Lavender sheer scrims, embellished with scrolls, float in and out of scenes as a collection of colorfully-painted flats resembling pop-up illustrations of a children’s book appear. The set pieces spring up faster than a toaster strudel and each is choreographed effortlessly with the music. The charming elves workshop, the bustling streets of Manhattan, inside Macy’s Christmas display and inside the Empire State Building, as well as Walter’s apartment, all feature charming, two dimensional sets. Stylistically, they represent a hybrid between Pixar and Dr. Seuss. They are utterly charming and highly engaging. There was one set piece, a desk in the board room, that looked like it might not survive the ensemble dancing atop it, but apparently the magic of Christmas saved what could have been a set malfunction.
The costuming includes some very fun and colorful threads for the elves, along with present-day fashions for the New York scenes. The humans are dressed in sleek, monochromatic, contemporary clothing, but the elves take center stage with their clothing and rightfully so. Their bright primary colors with conical hats and shoes with curly toes are never out of style in the North Pole. Elves value tradition and quality, and their beautifully embroidered and detailed costumes represent this. And how about all those men in Santa suits? They look hot! Well, . . .hot. The all-Santa dance number, a show-stopping chorus line in a Chinese restaurant with eleven big guys dressed in red, is probably extreme cardio for the men in their ten pound, red velour suits, hats and beards. Definitely more on the menu than Moo Shu Pork.
Matthew Sklar's bright, chirpy, big-band musical score features a seven piece big band ensemble. Though small in number, they support this score well with a vibrant rhythmic, toe tapping sound. The brass and percussion drive the score and the show is simply loaded with music. Not all of it is memorable but all of it is enjoyable.
Elf The Musical is a lush production, but may not be family friendly on two small fronts. 1) PRICE. Between the storybook visual designs and the incredibly perky and engaging cast of twenty, it has all the elements you would expect for a national tour, including the cost. It is a pricey but memorable holiday event at top ticket prices of up to $110 each. The quality is great but it comes with a matching price tag. 2) SPOILER ALERT. If your kids come along and are still believers, the Santa myth is debunked, a lot. Your kids might love the show but they may leave not believing in Santa anymore. [*sob*]
I, however, will continue to see this musical again, and often. Elf the Musical has done what the mall cannot. I now feel the Christmas spirit and just may go home and decorate for Christmas, even though it is still a week before Thanksgiving. Don’t hate me. I’m just feeling the holiday love and I don’t want it to stop.
ELF THE MUSICAL
Broadway at the Bass
Bass Performance Hall
4th and Calhoun Streets
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
LIMITED run through November 23rd
Wednesday – Saturday at 7:30 pm, Sunday at 6:30 pm, and Saturday – Sunday matinee at 1:30 pm.
Ticket prices are $60.00 - $100.00, according to seating and performance date.
For information and to purchase tickets, visit www.basshall.com or call the box office at 817-212-4280.