Snow Business Like Show Business!
“Jovie is nuts! “
“I like nuts”
ELF is back for a gala evening in London. Crowds throng outside the Dominion Theatre, with something of a Broadway vibe. People dress in green Elf suits and spangly party dresses. Friends embrace, children well-up with delight, even parents are smiling. The original Elf was the much-loved 2003 film with Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel. Many in the audience would have grown up with it and they expect a good time. Santa himself promises it.
Lyle agrees. Granddaughter’s verdict: “GOOD. Favourite bit was (REDACTED so as not to spoil the surprise) A pleasant sight and I really liked it … There was a sad bit. Buddy the Elf got abandoned… He’s a person but he doesn’t know it. Second favourite bit is the song about how the Elves are always happy.”
This is the stunning opening number when 10 Elves erupt to sing and dance their happy dance. It must be very difficult to stay happy when your knees are vigorously pounding the stage for several minutes. But these Elves are troupers and luckily for them their legs grow back so they can multi-task in the rest of the show. Which they do with great skill and precision throughout and thoroughly deserve their applause. Choreography by Liam Steel.
But this is Buddy’s story. A baby found by absent-minded Santa in an empty sack of Xmas gifts on his return to the North Pole. Santa, (not really the philanthropist we always took him for?) kept the infant and put him to work in the Present Factory. But when Buddy grows to be twice the height of the average Elf, and displays certain other traits, he is dispatched to the human jungle of New York to find his businessman Father who, according to Santa, is on the ‘naughty step’. A place where we might reasonably think Santa himself should be. Armed only with his innocence, infectious grin, and the assurance that there is “Nothing to be scared of in New York,” Buddy duly changes lives and finds love because… This is a Christmas Show.
But… a Show that seems a little under-cooked. The pace of the action is uneven, despite Tim Goodchild’s super-fluent sets. The dialogue strains to appeal to a wide range of age and other backgrounds. Does Santa really think ‘Scunthorpe’ deserves a laugh in its own right? And is ‘The blasted sleigh won’t fly!” supposed to make him look now or 1940s? There are topical allusions, brand names, and in-jokes about show business and the demented world of children’s book publishing. It’s the innuendoes about ‘swollen thumbs’ and ‘going to bed’ that might pose awkward questions to parents of small children on the way home. But before the magic can fade a great piece of ensemble work reliably comes along to distract us.
Simon Lipkin’s Buddy, on stage for most of the evening, holds the piece together with tremendous energy. Tom Chambers, as his father Walter channels Scrooge’s management style and throws great shapes in the finale. Rebecca Lock, Walter’s long-suffering wife Emily, looks like she could have thrown him clean through the plate glass window of their Manhattan apartment as soon as she realised what she had married. But her moving duet with son Michael (Logan Clark, on this evening, otherwise Dexter Barry, Alfie Morwood, or Frankie Treadaway) deserves its great cheers. Kim Ismay’s Office Manager Deb and her spectacles spark up the office scenes and Georgina Castle’s Jovie convinces us that falling in love with an Elf might not be a good idea. Who’d have known? Nicholas Pound is both Santa and the evil CEO of the Hobbs company. A point is made. Meanwhile, everyone is ably supported by the brilliant band.
According to the Official Programme “The Code of the Elves” says TREAT EVERY DAY LIKE CHRISTMAS. “So you Elves lie around all year watching telly and drinking? What would Jeff Bezos say?”
World’s Greatest Dad
I’ll Believe in You
In the Way (Reprise)
Just Like Him
I’ll Believe in You (Reprise)
Nobody Cares About Santa
Never Fall in Love
There Is a Santa Claus
The Story of Buddy the Elf
Nobody Cares About Santa (Reprise)
A Christmas Song (Reprise)
Book by Bob Martin, Thomas Meehan
Composer: Matthew Sklar
Lyricist: Chad Beguelin
Author: David Berenbaum
Directed by Philip Wm McKinley
Director: Philip Wm McKinley
Choreographer: Liam Steel
Designer: Tim Goodchild
Lighting Designer: Patrick Woodroffe
Sound Designer: Gareth Owen
Video Designer: Ian William Galloway
Musical Director: Alan Williams
Running Time: Two hours 25 minutes with an interval
Booking until 7th January 2023
268-269 Tottenham Court Road
London W1T 7AQ
Tube: Tottenham Court Road
Reviewed by Brian Clover
at the Dominion Theatre
on 24th November 2022