Certain holiday tales have become an indelible part of our culture and so much a symbol of the season it’s almost not Christmas in many folks’ minds unless they’ve read or seen them. Classics like A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life come to mind. But newer stories have been added to that list more recently, such as A Christmas Story, Home Alone, and even National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Quite possibly the most recent addition to that list is Elf, the heart-warming, if slightly odd, tale of Buddy the elf who isn’t actually an elf. The movie starring Will Ferrell has become a must watch in many households. For those who are not Ferrell fans, the movie is still worth the watch just for Ed Asner’s Santa Claus and Bob Newhart’s Papa Elf.
Some may not know, however, that Elf was adapted into a stage musical, one that is arguably even more entertaining than the movie. And that is even more true in the capable hands of director David Rexroad in The Actors Guild of Parkersburg’s production of Elf: The Musical. Starring the inimitable R.J. Lowe, this show is a true Christmas gift to the Mid-Ohio Valley. I would normally hold this entreaty to the end, but you probably shouldn’t wait until you finish reading. Tickets for this show will almost certainly all disappear, so you should do yourself a favor by stopping where you are and going to the Guild’s website to order your tickets now. But don’t forget to come back here and finish reading!
For those unfamiliar with the story, Buddy is an elf living at the North Pole with Santa. But he’s not like all the rest of the elves. He really stinks at making toys. And, well, he’s huge. Finally, troubled by how he doesn’t fit in with the other elves, he asks Santa what’s wrong with him. Santa sets him down and tells the story of a baby who has been orphaned when his mother dies. On Christmas eve, when Santa visits his orphanage, the baby crawls into the jolly old elf’s pack, where he naps undiscovered until St. Nick arrives back at the North Pole. Santa decides to raise the child as an elf, but the fact is he has a father back in New York City. So, in an attempt to find his place in the world, Buddy walks from Santa’s workshop all the way to NYC, where he meets his dad. But, to no one’s surprise, Buddy, who’s known nothing but elf life, still doesn’t quite fit in.
R. J. Lowe turns in his usual stellar performance as Buddy. But the rest of the cast is terrific too. Ashley Fluharty is sweetly cynical as Buddy’s crush, Jovie. Buddy’s dad Walter Hobbs, played wonderfully by George Litman, is about as far from who you’d expect an elf’s dad to be as possible. He’s a children’s book publisher who seems to dislike kids and anything they enjoy, especially Christmas. Heather Hepburn and Jack Peyton are simply great as Buddy’s new stepmom and stepbrother. Their scenes together are really sweet. Even smaller parts like Missy Arnold as Walter’s assistant Deb and Charlie Matthews as Walter’s boss are spot on, as are all of the ensemble actors, many of whom play multiple parts, from elves to office workers to residents of the mean streets of New York City, where there is so little Christmas cheer that Santa can’t keep his sleigh aloft.
As is always true at the Guild, the technical elements of the show are fantastic as well. The background is simply magical, the musical numbers and choreography are smooth and professional, the sets and set pieces are changed seamlessly, and the costumes are amazing. Beth Lane does a great job as the technical director, as do Barbara Full as musical director, Eric Augenstein as choreographer, Charlie Matthews as assistant director, and Marsha Mueller as stage manager.
Opening night is just around the corner on Friday, November 19 at 8:00pm. Subsequent evening performances will take place on November 20, 26, 27, December 3, 10, and 11, with matinees at 2:30pm on November 21 and 28. There will also be a 4:00pm curtain on December 4, with a 6:00pm show on December 5. That may seem like a lot of performances, but it’s a good bet they’ll all sell out, so don’t delay. If you didn’t do it when I told you the first time, get your tickets now by going to the Guild’s website. You’ll be glad you did!
The Actors Guild is also a collection site for items to benefit House to Home during Elf. This organization assists our local homeless population and needs personal hygiene items, socks, mens and womens underwear in small, medium and large, cleaning supplies for the House to Home facility, and non-perishable food items which are easily opened, like pop top canned meats and peanut butter, and other prepared foods. There will be a box in the lobby to receive donations during Elf, The Musical.