As most of you guys kno w, I live in a place called Halifax, Nova Scotia – I know, sort of an uncommon home base for a TV critic. But it’s pretty great here, and one of the many local things I love to do is check out local productions at Neptune Theatre. This is a big year for Neptune because they’re celebrating their 50th anniversary.
Ever since it was announced that the big holiday show this year would be Elf: The Musical, I’ve been looking forward to seeing it. Way back in 2009 (Have I really been blogging for over three years?) I wrote a special festive post on my top 30 holiday movies. The fact that a list that was originally intended to be a top ten turning into a top thirty should tell you something about how much I love holiday films. Anyway, Elf was number four on the list, so obviously I enjoy it quite a bit. I was excited to see the musical adaptation, but also nervous that it wouldn’t be able to live up to Will Ferrell’s classic. I was so wrong! Neptune’s production was a true delight.
Neptune Theatre is the first Canadian theatre to put on Elf: The Musical, and I think that’s pretty awesome. It’s rare that we get to one-up some of the big cities like Toronto and Montreal.
The musical is very similar to the movie – An elf named Buddy discovers that he is not actually an elf, but a human who crawled into Santa’s bag at an orphanage when he was a baby. He goes to New York City to find his biological father. The stories differ a bit, and it was fun to be able to pick out some of my favorite lines and moments from the film.
Mark Uhre plays Buddy, and he does a fantastic job. He’s childlike, warm and bubbling over with enthusiasm. I liked that his performance wasn’t simply a copy-cat of Ferrell’s, he brought his own youthful vigor to the role. He’s in almost every scene, and his performance never lacked energy.
Blair Irwin played Jovie, the role played by Zooey Deschanel in the movie. I’m a big Zooey fan, so in my eyes Irwin had big shoes to fill. But just like her other recent Neptune Theatre performances (she was in Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz, among other things) she was fantastic.
The costumes in Elf were sparkly, festive and eye-catching, but it was the sets that really stood out to me. Neptune may be a small theatre, but they’ve really been killing it for the past few years and the sets have been a huge part of that. In the program, set designer Sean Mulcahy said he was inspired by classic pop-up books. They completely achieved that look, and it really added an element of fantasy to the experience.
Elf: The Musical was sweet, it was funny, and it was the perfect way to kickstart the holiday season. I’m feeling to festive now, I bought a carton of eggnog at the grocery store this afternoon and I’ve been
sipping gulping it down while writing this review. Children will adore this show and I really, really encourage you to use it to introduce them to live theatre – but even for adults, the show will bring out that Christmassy sense of nostalgia and make you feel like a kid.