Non-stop family entertainment is on display in the Pike Road Theatre Company's delightful production of Elf, the Musical. Running at about two-and-a-half-hours [the time flies by], director-choreographer James Keith Posey has again conscripted a 50+ ensemble of local talents to bring Buddy the Elf's story to effervescent life, closing the Company's Inaugural Season with a sold-out run.
Based on the 2003 film that has become a Holiday staple, we follow the orphaned Buddy's journey as he leaves the North Pole in search of his biological father who is on Santa's "naughty list"-- You see, Buddy [Travis Clark] has been brought up since infancy in Santa's realm believing he is an Elf, but when he finds out he is actually a human...well, the rest is fantasy come true.
Santa Claus [Sam Wallace is near perfection as the "jolly old Elf"] narrates Buddy's episodic escapades that take him to New York on his quest, and where his naïveté becomes the matter for comic misunderstandings that cause him to be accepted by some and mistrusted by others, and only rarely letting disappointments dampen his ever-gleeful demeanor. And we get caught up in all of this through Mr. Clark's ebullient personification.
Walter Hobbs [Jason Isbell] is Buddy's father, a children's book publisher so fixated on his need of a new hit story that he has been ignoring his wife Emily [Stephanie Coppock] and son Michael [Griffin Isbell]; so, when Buddy barges into his life and claims to be not only his long-lost firstborn son but one of Santa's Elves as well, that becomes a bit too much on his plate as Christmas approaches. -- It will take the concerted efforts of family and co-workers to settle matters amicably.
The cast are uniformly solid in depicting an array of characters: from Mrs. Claus [Jennifer Hollett] and a small army of Elves, to a group of Fake Department Store Santas, to a coterie of corporate executives [Matthew Givens is particularly Scrooge-like as Walter's boss, Mr. Greenway], and especially to Jovie [Kristen Vanderwal] Buddy's love-interest, and an outsider, like him who secretly yearns for acceptance and human connection.
But let's not forget that this is a musical [book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, music by Matthew Sklar, and lyrics by Chad Beguelin] replete with solos, duets, small group, and huge neatly choreographed production numbers, that keep the action moving with a cast of gifted singers. -- The sheer joy that opens the show with "Happy All the Time", sets the appropriate tone, and "Sparklejollytwinklejingley" just about brings the house down. A touching "I'll Believe in You" by Michael and Emily gives hope to Buddy's cause. Jovie's "Never Fall in Love" opens up her inner feelings for our hero. "Nobody Cares About Santa" is a clever twist on childlike beliefs. And "The Story of Buddy" brings the messages home.
The focus is rarely away from Buddy; it takes commitment to sustain such a gleeful role for two acts, and Mr. Clark's infectious enthusiasm carries the day, makes believers of us all, and leaves audiences with renewed commitment to family, love, and acceptance of the goodness in all of us.