Reporting Sara Pelissero
With seven magical words, the feeling of Christmas is suddenly upon us — “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”
Sure, it’s almost been a decade since the movie “Elf” graced the silver screen but its fantastic storyline and hilarious one-liners have secured its place as a holiday favorite for years to come.
It was only a matter of time until someone got the brilliant idea to put it on stage. “Elf the Musical” opens Dec. 5 at St. Paul’s Ordway Center for the Performing Arts and will continue spreading Christmas joy until Dec. 30.
But before we pass through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, we chatted with the woman who get a mighty lesson about elf culture.
South Dakota native Kate Hennies plays Jovie, Buddy the Elf’s human crush, in the national show. While she started playing piano at a young age thanks to a next-door neighbor who taught lessons, it wasn’t long before she found her passion in theater. Now, she gets to live out her dream night after night on stage.
So this is your first national show? What’s it been like so far?
Yes it is, I just graduated a year ago. So I’ve been auditioning in New York for about a year and this is pretty much my first gig. It’s been so much fun. It’s a wonderful cast. We have a great creative team helping us to put a lot of Christmas spirit into the show and it’s just such a fun show overall. Everyone knows the movie, and the movie is hilarious and wonderful with Will Ferrell but the musical adds some big Broadway dance numbers, some great songs and it’s just a really, really fun show to do every day.
How familiar were you with this story before being asked to play Jovie?
I pretty much watched the movie three times a year at Christmas. It’s one of my favorite movies, Christmas movies, and it’s really become a classic. So I was really excited to see how the musical version would be different from the movie. So that was really fun to explore.
How does the show differ from the movie?
There’s a lot of familiarities like, Buddy still runs around the revolving doors and he and Michael still eat spaghetti with maple syrup and he asks people what their favorite color is, and we go ice skating at Rockefeller Center, which is really fun. But, of course, we are bringing it to a stage so there are some difference. The biggest and the best differences are that we add a lot of really fun songs and dancing and all of the elves dance on their knees so they’re really short. So it’s really cool how it’s all been adapted on stage.
You’re from South Dakota? What’s it like being able to perform so close to home?
It’s very exciting. Every time I talk to my parents, back in South Dakota, they update me on who’s coming to the show, and it’s so fun that all my friends can come and my family. So I’m so so excited to be in St. Paul from Dec. 5 to the 30, which is such a long, great time to be in St. Paul.
Tell us about your character, Jovie. Is she different on stage than in the movie?
Jovie is, just like in the movie, she’s really not a huge Christmas person, she doesn’t really have that same innocent, very excited quality that Buddy has. They’re very much opposites which is really fun and I think that really makes their relationship work in the end. So when Buddy comes into her life, he teaches her all about Christmas spirit and believing and getting excited about even the smallest things in life, and not caring what other people think and embracing who you really are. So it’s really cool to see through our musical how she goes from being a version of the Grinch to becoming an elf herself, kind of, and loving Christmas and really giving into the season of the holidays.
Tell us a little more about the music in this show.
All of the music was created just for the show. There’s really not any staple Christmas songs in it but it’s really cool because the songs sound very Christmas-y. The music was written by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, who also wrote “The Wedding Singer.” It’s really good. There’s a lot of fun songs that Buddy sings and there’s a couple ballads and Buddy’s mom and his little brother have a really powerful song about finally believing in Christmas. There’s an awesome song that Buddy and I sing underneath the tree at Rockefeller Center, where I finally give in and sing to spread Christmas cheer. The music is really beautiful and there’s bound to be something that everybody will like.
Elf The Musical runs from Dec. 5 to Dec. 30. For tickets and more information, click here.