Dallas Summer Musicals
Director – Sam Scalamoni
Music Director—Nate Patten
Choreography – Connor Gallagher
Scenic Designer—Christine Peters
Lighting Designer—Paul Miller
Sound Designer—Shannon Slaton
Costume Design—Gregg Barnes
CAST (in reviewed performance)
Buddy—Daniel Patrick Smith
Walter– D. Scott Withers
Store Manager—Michael Fisher
Mr. Greenway—Drew Martin
Ensemble: Joseph Fierberg, Spencer Glass, Shane Hurst, Ashleigh Junio, Erin Kei, Caitlin Lester-Sams, Tyler Logan, Katie Lombardo, Emily Jeanne Phillips, Benjamin Rivera, Brandon Stonestreet, Mia Weinberger
Reviewed Performance 12/8/2015
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
In keeping with the current trend of film to stage adaptations-especially Christmas stories (think A Christmas Story The Musical and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) Elf the Musical has become wildly popular with productions running each holiday season since its inception in 2010. Based on the 2003 Christmas comedy starring Will Ferrell, James Caan, and Bob Newhart, Elf the Musical brings the joy and magic of Christmas, Santa Claus, and the story of Buddy, the Elf-a human raised among the elves at The North Pole. Whether you are a fan of the movie- or you love getting into the holiday spirit, Elf the Musical brings catchy songs, humorous situations, and the tender story of naïve Buddy, who restores the belief that Santa Claus is real, while seeking to find his real father, as well as his acceptance. Of course, the story cannot be complete with romance-along the way he develops feelings for Jovie, a seasonal Christmas elf at Macy’s. Christmas, innocent romance, and familial acceptance- the perfect formula for any Broadway musical.
Elf the Musical is set at The North Pole, and in New York City. William "Buddy" Hobbs, a young orphan child, mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported back to the North Pole. Years later, Buddy finds out that he's an ordinary human being and heads off to New York City in search of his father, Walter Hobbs. He finds him, but Walter doesn't believe in the spirit of Christmas, nor do many other New Yorkers. This is a problem, because Santa's sleigh is powered by the people's belief in Christmas. Faced with the harsh reality that Walter is on the naughty list and his half-brother, Michael, doesn’t even believe in Santa, Buddy is determined to win over his birth family and help New York City remember the true meaning of Christmas. The energy and enthusiasm of the cast in collaboration with the amazing visual elements make this production the perfect recipe for holiday fun- for the young and the young-at-heart.
Director Sam Scalamoni brought together an ensemble cast which worked well together, and collaborated with a crew who clearly took their jobs seriously by knitting together scenery, as well as producing lighting and costumes that enhanced the story being told by these characters. His overall vision and concept was very impressive. I could really feel a sense of magic in the air, and from the moment Santa Claus appeared on stage in the beginning, I felt a warm and exciting feeling of the upcoming Christmas season.
Scenic Designer Christine Peters successfully transformed the grand proscenium stage into multiple locations. In a story with so many locations, each one was designed and conveyed with precision for detail. I was most impressed with Peter’s attention to detail in each location-from the magical and imaginative world of The North Pole, to the wonderfully familiar Christmas tree in Rockefeller Plaza in New York City-each one was larger than life, and was designed and executed like large pages in an illustrated children’s picture book. This was a nice surprise, considering the story of “Buddy, the Elf” was told by Santa Claus from a children’s book. It’s moments like this that really allow all design aspects of a production to work collaboratively-thus creating an true allusion and exit from reality for audiences. The sets were very colorful, and during the entire production, I felt that I had been transported to each of these locations. It was most extraordinary to see an ice-skating rink conveyed around the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, and the instantly recognizable statue of Prometheus at the base of the tree. This will be as close to New York City at Christmastime as I will be able to get this holiday season. It is apparent to me that a lot of time, care, and attention to detail was incorporated from the scenic, lighting and costume designers of this production.
There were quite a bit of scenic changes to accommodate the multiple locations required within the story. I thought that these transitions were executed marvelously. The transitions were seamless. There was never a moment when I felt that I had been “cheated” by the lack of details or amount of detail in each location. From the interior and exterior locations of the Empire State Building and Macy’s Department store, to the enchanting and mysterious workshop at the North Pole, each set was splashed with color, and bedazzled with glitter. It was truly eye-catching, and added to the overall spectacle of the production. The North Pole was as grand on stage as depicted in Christmas films. I was also very pleasantly surprised to see Santa’s sleigh fly-not only did it complete the allusion of the production for me, but, it was a very authentic, and pulled me completely into the world of the production. Another gem of the set design was seeing a moving style depiction of Macy’s employees as elves leave the store for the evening. It was a nice way to transition to the next scene. Again, another moment which left me in complete awe.
Lighting was designed by Paul Miller. Miller executed a fantastic job plotting lighting that was appropriate for each scene and mood. One element that particularly impressed me was the lighting in the skyscraper windows, and the street lamps in New York City. It really was a nice touch of practical lighting that provided a wonderful touch of visual imagery separating the extraordinary world of St. Nick and the elves and the reality of the streets of NYC. Mr. Miller clearly collaborated well with his fellow designers, and was able to convey another facet of magic through lighting. Often times, I feel that lighting can sometimes be very straightforward; however, Mr. Miller was able to create a very playful and jolly mood-perfect for those looking to immerse themselves in the holiday spirit.
Gregg Barnes designed costumes that were not only appropriate to the fantasy world but also had an incredible attention to detail. Each ensemble player wore a unique costume (for each role) adding to their importance and presence in the story. All this added authenticity to their roles. Costumes were visually appealing, while also giving audiences a glimpse of the majesty and amusement of the residents of Christmas Town. They were very colorful, and added an overall sense of fantasy and whimsy to the production. It was a pleasure to see each member of the ensemble with a unique twist on each costume. Not only were the costumes appealing with bright colors, patterns and (of course) sequins, but they also had a very nice textural appeal as well. Mr. Barnes certainly delivers with an extraordinary depiction of what we hope Santa Claus and his entourage of elves would look like.
Daniel Patrick Smith was incredibly believable in the role of Buddy. Through facial expressions, and body language, Smith convincingly portrayed the optimistic elf, seeking to find his father, and to be accepted by him. Smith provided some wonderfully honest chemistry with actors in the ensemble, and with his father, Walter (played superbly by D. Scott Withers). His role was very loveable, and his enthusiasm and honesty on stage was nearly constant. Smith never faltered in his delivery, and all interactions with other cast members were believable and spot on. I enjoyed seeing the child-like expressions and honesty in Smith’s performance. It was a nice contrast to the seriousness of his father, Walter-no longer a believer in the spirit of Christmas. Smith’s character was very gentle, and, at times, reminded me of the innocence of children at Christmas. I found this quote from It’s a Wonderful Life to be the best description- “He’s got the faith of a child.” (How many Christmas movies will I be able to reference in this review?) A standout musical number of Mr. Smith was “Sparklejollytwinklejingley.” He really pumped up the holiday cheer in the audience with this nonsensical word-reminding me of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” It was a high-energy number with fantastic choreography, and dazzled audiences with the amount of talent from the ensemble. Choreography from Connor Gallaher was very impressive-using inspiration from the days of classic Broadway-heavily acrobatic, detailed and intense.
Santa Claus was played by Ken Clement. Clement was very convincing through facial expressions and body language, and of course, the familiar “jolly” persona. There have been many depictions of Santa Claus on the big screen-from Tim Allen to Sir Richard Attenborough (there’s two more…The Santa Clause and Miracle on 34th Street) but Mr. Clement was a very honest, and loveable addition to the cavalcade of Claus’ portrayals. I specifically enjoyed his strong presence on stage in the beginning (taking the role of the storyteller), and even teasing the audience with his references to the Dallas Cowboys playing the Washington Redskins (and winning!) the evening before. Many in the audience chuckled- as it was very appropriate to residents of Dallas.
Another standout was Nicky Torchia in the role of Buddy’s younger half-brother, Michael. Torchia was convincingly cute, and provided the appropriate touch of humor with Buddy on stage. It is evident that the young Mr. Torchia devoted a lot of time and effort into his performance. With his delivery and facial expressions, he did an excellent job. As he matures and expands his resume, he will certainly become a well-rounded actor. I was most impressed with his powerful and developed voice. I expect to see more of Mr. Torchia in national tour productions with roles for youth actors. He was very remarkable on stage.
This production of Elf the Musical is definitely worth seeing. The attention to detail evident in all aspects of this production makes for a satisfying experience. From the moment the overture begins, and the stage is transformed with all things Christmas, you will be marveled, and pulled into the spirit of the season. I highly recommend seeing Elf The Musical- it will be a fun experience for audiences of all ages. Don’t be a “Grinch” this holiday season, and get out to see this “elf-portrait” of Buddy at the Music Hall at Fair Park. It will get you into the Christmas mood, and you may even be left with a surprise or two in the end!
ELF THE MUSICAL
Dallas Summer Musicals at Music Hall at Fair Park
909 1ST AVE. , DALLAS, TX 75210
Plays through December 20.
Thurs., Dec. 10, 7:30pm
Fri., Dec. 11, 7:30pm
Sat., Dec. 12, 1:30 & 7:30pm
Sun., Dec. 13, 1:30 & 7:30pm
Tues., Dec. 15, 7:30pm
Wed., Dec. 16, 7:30pm
Thurs., Dec. 17, 1:30 & 7:30pm
Fri., Dec. 18, 7:30pm
Sat., Dec. 19, 1:30 & 7:30pm
Sun., Dec. 20, 1:30pm
Ticket prices range from $17.00-$104.00, depending on day and seating.
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.DallasSummerMusicals.org by phone at 1.800.514.ETIX (3849), and at The Box Office, 5959 Royal Lane, Suite 542, in Dallas, Texas.
Groups of 10 or more receive a 15% discount, priority seating, and many more benefits. Please call 214.426.GROUP (4768) or email Groups@DallasSummerMusicals.org