Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Delightful ELF tours into the Connor Palace

Last month the Cleveland area played host to what was a hoped for new Christmas musical that would go to Broadway and be holiday entertainment.  Unfortunately, KRIS KRINGLE, with book by Maria Ciampi and music by Tim Janis, lacked clear structure, emotional-generating glee, and joyous songs.  It’s lead character was charming, but not endearing. 

What KRIS KRINGLE needed was to be more of what ELF, which is now in a short residence at the Connor Palace Theatre, does so well.  There is a joyous zaniness to the nicely textured story, enough fun for the youngsters to identify with and enjoy, and a wonderful score.  It is also well directed by Sam Scalamoni, who has been so successful with his ELF national tours that they launched the 6 th and 7th company this year with two tours criss-crossing the US.

ELF THE BROADWAY MUSICAL, the story is the tale of Buddy, an orphan whose mother died in childbirth.  When Santa was visiting the orphanage into which Elf was placed, the toddler crawled into Santa’s bag of gifts.  Transported to the North Pole, the boy is adopted by the elves.  Buddy of large size and poor toy-making skills, eventually is “outed” as being human, and with Santa’s blessing, embarks on a journey to New York City to find his biological father.   The reunion between Buddy and his children’s book editor “dad” does not go well, nor does his entrance into “human” society due to his elf clothing and lack of social skills.  Eventually, after a series of farcical incidents, Buddy finds a family and love and, as is true of all escapist fables, “lives happily ever after.”

The tale (book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin) is filled with farcical interludes, visual delights, including a growing Christmas tree, views of Radio City Music Hall, action on the building’s famous ice rink, and terrific dancing (choreography by Connor Gallagher). 

Filled with musical showstoppers such as “Sparklejollytwinklejingley,” “There Is a Santa Claus” and “The Story of Buddy the Elf,” and pretty songs, including “I’ll Believe in You” and “Never Fall in Love,” the lyrics by Chad Beguelin and music by Matthew Sklar grab and hold attention.

The production is visually delightful, well-staged and well-acted.

Daniel Patrick Smith is a perfect, enthusiastic, unbridled male-child as Elf. He lights up the stage with his whimsical smile, flashing eyes and mobile face and body.  He has a fine singing voice and dances well.   He is endearing!

As Santa, Ken Clement is cherubic, has some great audience asides, and is everything one would want in a “real” Saint Nick.

Harper Brady, as twelve-year old Michael, Elf’s step-brother, is compelling.  The talented tween has a pure singing voice, acts with confidence, dances well, and creates a real person.  (Nicky Torcia alternates the role with Harper Brady)

Gabrielle Mirabella and D. Scott Withers are believable as Elf’s step-mother and father and Maggie Anderson performs well as Jovie, Elf’s love interest.

The ensemble sings and dances well, portraying everything from elves to real people.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ELF THE MUSICAL is a total holiday delight.  The story line is nicely developed, the visual elements of the production pleasing, the music nicely textured, the choreography sparkles, and the acting is top-notch.  This definitely makes for a delightful experience for youngsters and adults.  

Tickets for ELF, which runs through January 3, 2016  at the Connor Palace Theatre, can be ordered by calling 216-241-6000 or going to