Reporting Sara Pelissero
Picking a favorite moment from the movie “Elf” is what I imagine it’s like picking a favorite child — impossible.
There’s the moment when New York newcomer Buddy the Elf is hit, without notice, by a bright yellow taxi cab or the moment he “accidentally” gets drunk in an Empire State Building mail room. Or who can forget when Buddy eats cotton balls, as if they were marshmallows, during a visit to the doctor.
Unfortunately, none of these classic scenes are featured in the musical.
But what has been removed has been replaced with a bit more cheer, a bit more holiday pizazz. And of course, loads of feel-good songs.
It’s best, I think, to go into this stage adaptation as a separate adventure — instead of waiting for the moments from the movie, enjoy the family fun as it unfolds.
The basic storyline remains the same — Buddy, an orphaned child, wanders into Santa’s bag, is raised by elves, eventually discovers the truth and heads to New York City to find his birth father.
Like the film, the musical is presented as a story, this time told by Santa. As the story of Buddy is read, the scene changes and festive displays come to life.
The music, by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, is certainly the best way to spread Christmas cheer but somewhat forgettable once the holiday season has concluded. Though I can guarantee you’ll have “The Story of Buddy the Elf” in your head the entire car ride home.
Buddy, played by Matt Kopec, is a bit more Jack McBrayer than Will Ferrell but his vocal chops are something to behold. In the same way as Kenneth Parnell, Kopec’s beaming “Buddy” smile is irresistible and contagious.
His love story with Jovie (played by Kate Hennies), his brief co-worker who’s less than thrilled about the holidays, has a bit more play in the musical — and their song, “A Christmas Song” is highly adorable.
There’s a few other notable changes — Gimble’s is turned into a Macy’s, Miles “the angry elf” Finch is replaced with a mention of “famed” children’s book writer Chris Smith (and subsequent word play ensues), Walter Hobbs’ assistant Deb has a much larger and, ahem, bustier, role and Buddy dances with a group of fake santas.
Though, fear not, Buddy still eats his legendary spaghetti and maple syrup, Jovie and Buddy turn a stage into an ice rink in order to skate around Rockefeller Center and yes, Buddy enjoys a turn — or eight — inside a revolving door.
The musical is filled with warm-fuzzy moments, family values and encouragement for us all to immerse ourselves in elf culture — and stop acting like a Cotton-Headed-Ninny-Muggins.
For a show that will certainly put you in the holiday spirit, “Elf” is the perfect plan. The sparkle-jolly-twinkle-jingley themes matched with the entertaining talent on stage is enough to banish the ba-humbug out of anyone.
“Elf” runs until Dec. 30 at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts. Tickets are between $27-$120 and are available by clicking here.