"Elf the Musical" - Meehan, Martin, Sklar & Beguelin - Theatre at the Mount (Gardner, MA.) - REVIEW

(Cover Photo: The CAST of the holiday favorite "ELF THE MUSICAL" now playing at Theatre at the Mount in Gardner, MAthrough December 2, 2023Photo Credit Laura Cavanaugh)


By Kevin T. Baldwin

METRMAG Reviewer

# 774-242-6724

“I planned out our whole day. First, we make snow angels for two hours, and then we'll go ice skating, and then we'll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookie Dough as fast as we can, and then, to finish, we'll snuggle."

                                                    -   ("Buddy") / Thomas Meehan & Bob Martin

Theatre at the Mount

Presents a Holiday Favorite

"ELF THE MUSICAL"

Book by Thomas Meehan & Bob Martin

Music by Matthew Sklar & Chad Beguelin 

Directed by Kate Sheridan with Craig Cormier and Emily Smith

Music Director Katrina Baer

Choreography by Kim Soel 

Cast Includes: David Allen Prescott as “Buddy”; Meagan Dame as “Jovie”; Jonathan Simmons as “Walter Hobbs”; Becky Ruccio as “Emily Hobbs”; Xavier Cormier as “Michael Hobbs”; Emily Smith as “Deb”; Mike Dickson as “The Manager”; Tim Murphy as “Mr. Greenway”; Jared Shepard as “Chadwick”; Peter Russo as “Matthews”; Jeremiah Riordon as “Santa Claus.”

Adult Ensemble: Michael Audet, Hayley Blackmer, Timmy Chase, Mallory Fish, Alyson Foisy, Sam Gagnon, Colleen Johnson, Ashley LaBarre, Mindy Lordan, Vivian Beauvais Michaud, Jillianne Prescott, Aeon Smith, Maren Riordon, Dawn Ross, Chay Tower-Hughes, Todd Ziemke.

Teen Ensemble: Luci Adams, Julia Feeley, Aiden Hughes, Chloe Kruse, Lily McEvoy, Ryan Rollo, Blake Ross, Rylan Ross, Ruby Tower-Hughes, Rachel Worden.

Kids Ensemble: Julianna Baer, Eliza Brown, Amelia Cormier, Brynn Crossman, Tegan Fraticelli, Makayla Marlow, Emma McAllister, Jackson Melanson, Caddigan Prescott, Finnley Prescott, Andy Smith, Lily Smith. 

Additional Creative Team:

Technical Director - Jeff Boisseau; Lighting Designer - Tim Smith; Sound Engineer - Sean Kyle; Costumers - Doreen Croteau and Meredith Heimo; Stage Manager - Jillian Whitney; Assistant Stage Manager - Rachel Twiss; Box Office Manager - Paul Caouette; Graphic Designer - Kylie Rolston; Lobby Displays - Lori Adams; Construction Crew - Grant Arbour, Aiden Burns, Raine Butler, Nick Cocco, Alcapone Pujols, Hannah Southwick; Running Crew - Kristen Licht, Anthony Kirouac, Elizabeth Baer, Miles Lundsted, Jovan Tremblay, Zach Horn, Kimberly Soel.

Performances: 

November 24 & 25, 2023 at 7:30pm

December 1 & 2, 2023 at 7:30pm

November 25 & 26, 2023 & December 3, 2023 at 2:00pm  

Special Sensory-Friendly Performance – December 2, 2023 at 2:00pm 

Mount Wachusett Community College, 44 Green Street, Room 182, Gardner, MA.

Tickets are available online at mwcc.universitytickets.com or by phone at 978-630-9388. 

For additional information contact Professor Gail Steele at 978 630-9162 or g_steele@mwcc.mass.edu 

COVID 19 PROTOCOLS

Contact Venue for Most Updated COVID-19 Safety Protocols and Information.

Holiday cheer prevails for Santa and his sleigh thanks to that delightful and determined Christmas elf named "Buddy" in Theatre at the Mount’s (TATM) latest holiday production, "ELF THE MUSICAL." 

(It should be noted that, while it is referred to here as "ELF THE MUSICAL" to avoid any confusion to the 2003 motion picture starring Will Ferrell, the musical is still officially entitled simply as "ELF.")

The musical ran during the holiday season on Broadway between 2010 and 2013, in London's West End in 2015, and has also toured extensively during the Christmas holiday season.

For anyone who has seen the original 2003 film version of “ELF,” they must wonder if, when seeing “ELF THE MUSICAL, now playing at TATM, what happens when you remove most of the vulgar ‘bathroom humor’ elements which made the original movie so “enjoyable” to some? 

The result is an equally entertaining adaptation, far more “family friendly” and one that can stand firmly, proudly, on its own thanks to the strengths of a good script, a pleasing score, some fine choreography and, most of all, a solid cast. 

The book for the musical is written by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, featuring a wonderful score by Matthew Sklar with lyrics by Chad Beguelin

The TATM show is ably directed through the combined efforts of Kate Sheridan, Craig Cormier and Emily Smith along with Music Direction by Katrina Baer and choreography by Kim Soel. 

(Photo: David Allen Prescott as "Buddy the Elf" and Jeremiah Riordon as "Santa" in a scene from the holiday musical "ELF" now playing at Theatre at the Mount in Gardner, MAthrough December 2, 2023Photo Credit Laura Cavanaugh)

“ELF THE MUSICAL is the tuneful, laugh-filled journey of Buddy (David Allen Prescott), a human orphan who crawled into Santa’s bag of gifts as an infant and, unknown to Santa (Jeremiah Riordon), was taken to the North Pole

Prescott absolutely embraces the charming childlike quality of Buddy without turning him into an over the top buffoon during his “fish out of water” experiences in NYC

Riordon, as Santa is immediately endearing as our narrator and guide throughout the story. Santa tells of how orphaned Buddy came to live at the North Pole and how Santa agreed to let his elves raise Buddy as one of their own. 

However, Buddy soon grows to be much taller, towering over the diminutive elves and, ultimately, at least as the story begins, his secret becomes…well…”obvious.” 

Santa explains to Buddy that his mother died at birth and sets him off to New York City to reunite with his biological father, the cold-hearted capitalist Walter Hobbs (Jonathan Simmons). Hobbs is an appallingly avaricious children’s book publisher who is, coincidentally, on Santa‘s ‘naughty list.’ 

By reuniting Buddy and Walter, Santa hopes Buddy can help Walter and, by extension, all of New York City, rediscover the spirit of Christmas

Gradually, Buddy begins to spread cheer among everyone he encounters…with the exception of Walter, who banishes Buddy from his office located within the Empire State Building

Simmons does a wonderful job portraying the distinctive voracity of his capitalist character but never takes it so far you cannot believe in the love Hobbs feels for his family. 

(Photo: David Allen Prescott as "Buddy the Elf" and Meagan Dame as "Jovie" in a scene from the holiday musical "ELF" now playing at Theatre at the Mount in Gardner, MAthrough December 2, 2023Photo Credit Laura Cavanaugh)

Buddy, instead of wallowing in despair or defeat, finds solace by working at Macy’s in a ‘Santa’s Wonderland’ attraction (unpaid as he is not really employed there) where he meets and falls for jaded co-worker, Jovie (Meagan Dame).  

Dame renders a proficient performance as Jovie and brings a lot of charm performing the Act Two number, “Never Fall in Love (With an Elf). 

In a heartwarming moment, Jovie agrees to go out with Buddy on a date. 

Buddy begins to melt Jovie's cold heart by borrowing some bells from a holiday bell ringer. Buddy plays them as if he is filling the bells with holiday spirit, making them sound as if they could be part of a Mannheim Steamroller song (or at least the famous holiday “Hershey Kisses” commercial). 

As Buddy gets closer to Jovie, he also becomes close with his other new co-workers, as well, leading to a musical highlight in the show, "Sparklejollytwinklejingley" featuring some clever choreography by Kim Soel

Other major dance climaxes performed by the ensemble include the first act's "A Christmas Song," the second act opener “Nobody Cares About Santa” and the charming “Story of Buddy the Elf” featuring Buddy, Walter, Walter’s dedicated secretary, Deb (Emily Smith), Walter’s wife Emily (Becky Ruccio) and their son Michael (Xavier Cormier). 

Ruccio and Cormier have absolutely wonderful chemistry as mother and son with Cormier giving (arguably) the strongest vocal performance of the evening in the song, “There Is a Santa Claus.  Together, the stage mother and son also superbly execute the song, "I'll Believe in You."

(Photo: The CAST of the holiday favorite "ELF THE MUSICAL" now playing at Theatre at the Mount in Gardner, MAthrough December 2, 2023Photo Credit Laura Cavanaugh)

Costumes for the show by Doreen Croteau and Meredith Heimo were pleasingly colorful and holiday festive.

"And are there ugly Christmas sweaters and ties" you might ask? Why yes, there are...and more! 

During one of the dance numbers at the November 24th performance, a costume mishap occurred with a belt on one of the ensemble but, like a true professional, the ensemble member re-attached the uncooperative belt and kept right on performing.

Also, during the November 24th show, there did seem to be an overall lack of energy. However, by Act Two, the cast seemed to catch its second North Pole wind because, from “Nobody Cares About Santa” on, it seemed like the holiday spirit completely took hold until the very end of the show.

Most of the stage was kept bare with a few simple furniture pieces used, as projected imagery was effectively used for any backgrounds. There were a couple of minor technical hiccups with the sequence of projections used but this did not detract from the overall enjoyment of the story.

For whatever set changes were required, the crew kept things moving fluidly and any downtime for set redress was minimal. 

Sound imbalance was a relatively minor issue as some microphones appeared to either be at inconsistent levels or, in some cases, not used at all, which was apparent as some of the dialogue was lost. 

This imbalance was also apparent during some of the songs as the recorded music used tended to overtake some of the singers or, again, some of the dialogue. 

However, on a technical level, the spirited lighting effects used easily compensated for the above by being executed to perfection. 

In the end, though, the strength of “ELF THE MUSICAL is in the performances and the TATM principal cast supported by a dedicated collective ensemble showed they all had the holiday spirit, wowing the audience. 

Coming up next at TATM is the iconic musical, "THE MUSIC MAN" for which TATM is looking for 88 MUSIC LOVERS to sponsor a piano key for $50 (or more) to help defray the cost of professional musicians for their 2024 musical production. 

Aside from royalties, the orchestra is their biggest single expense, and a donation of any amount is greatly appreciated. “Key Players” donors will be recognized for their support in "THE MUSIC MAN" playbill.

For more information, call # 978-630-9388 or send a check made payable to "88 KEYS FOR THE MUSIC MAN" to: Theatre at the Mount Box Office, 444 Green Street, Gardner, MA. 01440.  

“ELF THE MUSICAL continues at Theatre at the Mount  in Gardner until December 2nd. So, do not let Santa's sleigh or this delightful holiday musical treat pass you by.

Approximately two hours, 30 minutes with one intermission 

Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) 

@MetrmagReviews

@Theatre_Critics 

ABOUT THE SHOW

In this heart-warming musical, Santa narrates the story of Buddy, an apparently oversized elf who has been raised in the North Pole. 

During the lead up to Christmas, Buddy overhears the other elves discussing how he is really a human but hasn’t realized. 

He is devastated and Santa must reveal to his wannabe elf that baby Buddy mistakenly crawled into Santa's bag of gifts on Christmas Eve many years ago and was transported to the North Pole on Santa’s return home. 

With Santa's blessing, Buddy decides to travel to New York City to find his real father (who is on the naughty list). 

Shocked that that his own father could be on the naughty list, he is further astounded that his half-brother doesn't believe in Santa. 

How can this be? Buddy decides to change the outlook and behavior of his new family and bring the true meaning of Christmas back into New York City. 

Along the way, he discovers friendship, romance, and his true identity. 

"ELF THE MUSICAL" is a modern day holiday classic that aims to spread Christmas cheer for all to hear!  

Mount Wachusett Community College

444 Green Street 

Gardner, MA 01440 

https://mwcc.edu/campus-life/tam/sh