By Tim Andersen and Megan Fangmeyer
Beatrice Community Players, December 3, 2021 7:30 PM
Elf the Musical follows the story of Buddy, a human, who believes he is one of Santa’s elves. Upon learning that he is a human, Santa suggests he find his real father in a place very unlike the North Pole… New York City. This musical comedy is filled with jokes, jingles, and plenty of Christmas cheer.
When entering the theater, we were greeted with friendly smiles, a cozy atmosphere, and plenty of elf ears. The set design, courtesy of Missy Marlatt, and lighting by Jamie Ulmer, are the first highlight of the show, with a fantastic and intricate homage to the Christmas spirit throughout every scene. As the show is introduced as a story from a book, the set has multiple flats that unfold like the pages of a book, as well as rotating platforms, and plenty of set dressings and colorful lighting to keep the stage fun and interesting throughout the show. However, this did mean that some transitions between scenes, although very well-rehearsed, seem to run a bit long, to the point that a few of the transitional music tracks would repeat a few times before the next scene could begin. The costumes were also a delight. A Christmas-themed show wouldn’t be complete without gratuitous amounts of elf costumes and Santa suits, and, of course, our favorite costume, the Narwal.
The wonderfully cynical Santa Claus (Patrick Marlatt) opens the show in the form of a reading from a storybook, introducing the story as well as being a part of it. Marlatt brings incredible comedic timing to the character. Some of the biggest laughs were due to an unexpectedly placed modern reference from the one-and-only Santa Claus. But the main character, and star of the show, is Buddy (John Francis). Francis brings out the charm and child-like energy of Buddy without simply trying to impersonate Will Ferrell’s version of the character. He seemed a little ‘low-energy’ for the first few scenes on the night we attended, but part-way through Act One he hit his stride. We could tell he felt very at home when singing, and had maybe one of the most trained and pleasant voices in the cast. He also portrayed a loveably innocent character without being overly obnoxious or annoying. Another character we were impressed by was Walter Hobbs (Mike Fox) who had a fantastic portrayal of the grouchy, Christmas-hating businessman. Not only that, but he also did a great job with his character’s change of heart near the end of the show. The script may not have allowed a lot of time for his character to make the change, but Fox did well to make his character’s transformation organic and believable. Other shout-outs go to the sassy elves, Charlie and Tiara (Kaylynn Ballue and Sophia Anita Tunink), the energetic Manager (Matthew Bejjani), the charming and spirited Secretary (Elizabeth Veverka), and the adorable duets between the mother and son duo, Emily and Michael Hobbs (Paige Patton and Tanden Paben).
Overall, Elf the Musical is a fun musical comedy for all ages, having a fair number of jokes for the adults, while still staying family-friendly. The musical numbers are all fun and entertaining, the crowd favorite of the night being “Nobody Cares about Santa Claus” at the start of Act Two. We only wish the musical tracks during the dance portions of a few of the songs could have been turned up a bit louder. Whenever anyone was singing the balance was fine, but the volume of the music under the dance numbers felt low and brought the energy down. We felt it was a struggle to focus on the fun choreography when the music was at risk of being drowned out by the audience member two seats over crinkling their bag of snacks. There was also an obvious difference in levels of talent between the cast members, young and old, which is normal and expected in a local theatrical production. But with the beautiful set, fun and funny characters, and catchy, cheery musical numbers, Elf the Musical is a wonderful experience and warm-hearted entertainment to get you into the Christmas spirit.
If you go: We recommend starting out the Christmas season with this fun production running this weekend (Dec 3-5) and Next (Dec 9-12) at Community Players in Beatrice. Tickets and more information available at www.beatricecommunityplayers.com .
Tim Andersen and Megan Fangmeyer are actors and avid theatre lovers who support and participate in all kinds of local theatre. We hope to support and spread the love of theatre.
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