Elf | The Fabulous Fox Theatre

elf 75He also gets a baby, but he doesn’t know how except there was this “special kind of hug he’d never experienced before,” complete with descriptive bum wiggle. Ick.

 

 

 

ELF Buddy and Santa_Marcus

 

Earlier this month, the Fox brought in A Christmas Carol for one weekend only, and I understand what kids (and their parents) really want to see are bright lights and colorful sets. They want to hear catchy tunes that repeat the same lyrics over and over and over (and over some more). They want to see adults make absolute idiots of themselves, for example, as elves who have shoes on their knees to look short, an avuncular Santa Claus (played by Gordon Gray here), and a grownup in elf’s clothing who is a rather creepy man-child destined to find a family and true love in the end. (He also gets a baby, but he doesn’t know how except there was this “special kind of hug he’d never experienced before,” complete with descriptive bum wiggle. Ick.)

Parents are courted with the usual “wink, wink” jokes about people such as Al Gore and Charlie Sheen (could those be updated please?) and a wealth of double entendres. A couple of inappropriate words are actually used (“screw”) and one character sneaks sips from a flask kept in her purse, but it’s as G-rated as you can get these days. I also know that there is no point in my being a Grinch about Elf. It pushes all those Disney-loving buttons and takes them to 11. Disney Studios had nothing to do with this production, but its creators stole the template.

Based on the Will Ferrell movie, which at 10 years old is now considered a holiday “classic,” Elf is a shameless grab for the film’s audience. The trick worked. The theater was packed with parents and children, and surprisingly, quite a few adults without kids. They must have been the season ticket holders. A beautiful family sat in front of me, and I do mean “commercial gorgeous.” The tall, slender blonde mother and handsome dad complete with three-day beard were both dressed in white. Their adorable chubby girls looked to be around 6 and 8, and they were in fancy black dresses. The older child was interested, but the younger interested me more. She watched about 10 minutes, made herself comfortable, and went to sleep. At intermission, she awakened for ice cream, and then settled back in for another long winter’s nap until it was over. That child could grow up to be a discerning theatergoer. It was heartwarming.

Why did I tell that rambling story, you might ask? Well, if you found it tedious, then you’re not the kind of person to enjoy Elf. There actually is a story about how Buddy the Elf (Matt Kopec) learns he’s adopted one Christmas. Buddy is 28 years old and 6 feet tall. If I had to compare him to anyone, it would be uber-geek Ed Grimley, only with Pat Sajak as his Santa (I must say). If you have seen The Jerk wherein Steve Martin learns to his shock that he is adopted? He, too, is fully grown and his entire family is black. Coincidence? Sure. Okay. Seems that Buddy’s mom died shortly after he was born and his dad was never told of his existence. They had to move quickly past that unwed mother business, so they do, and Buddy ended up at the North Pole when he crawled into Santa’s (Gordon Gray) bag when the “Big Guy” (just like in WKRP) was visiting the orphanage where Buddy had been taken. He has lived happily and obliviously with the elves ever since. He isn’t a very good toymaker, though, and after he finds out the truth (gasp!), he decides to walk the 3,000-plus miles to New York City where his father (Matthew Alan Smith) works in the Empire State Building.

His father doesn’t believe Buddy’s story, but when his stepmother pulls a fast one, he has to accept Buddy. Buddy’s little brother, Michael (Tyler Altomari), is thrilled, since at 12, he and Buddy are emotional contemporaries. Buddy does endearing stuff like put syrup on spaghetti and wants to cuddle all the time. His understanding stepmother, Emily (Jane Bruce), is just too good to be true, but there are some rough patches. Buddy also finds a girlfriend, Jovie (Kate Hennies), who falls in love with him in one night. Eventually, Buddy saves the day for his overworked father and gets Santa’s sleigh back up in the air. It isn’t reindeer powered anymore due to complaints by P.E.T.A., so Santa relies on the energy of people’s belief to fly. It’s just like Tinkerbell, only no one has to clap, just ooh and aah a lot.

It is a total waste of time for me to continue to trash Elf. You’re going to go or you aren’t, and I don’t really mind if you do. There is some entertaining dancing throughout the show, although the music is marred by muddy sound (which may be sloppy enunciation by the performers). If children go to the theater for any reason, then that’s a gift to them because if they love the experience, even if the show insults their intelligence, they may grow up to become regular patrons. Now that would be a Christmas miracle.

Happy holidays to all! | Andrea Braun

 

Elf is at the Fox Theatre through December 29, 2013. You may contact thefabulousfox.org.

Production credits: Book – Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin; Music – Matthew Sklar; Lyrics – Chad Beguelin; Scenic design – Christine Peters; Costumes – Gregg Barnes; Lighting – Paul Miller; Sound – Shannon Slaton; Choreography – Connor Gallagher; Director – Sam Scalamoni

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