CENTERVILLE — As the Christmas season approaches, there are so many options here in Utah to indulge in some holiday cheer, and Centerpoint Legacy Theatre picked a marvelous one. Elf the Musical is a fun adaptation of the popular Christmas movie, Elf. Many of the same lines and jokes remain, and there is plenty of new content and music to enjoy. In addition, you get the experience of being in front of a live show to see all the creative talent and hard work that was put into this. This show has such fun material to work with, including funny lyrics and dialogue. In addition, there are plenty of nostalgic traditional jazz numbers. I was extremely impressed with this musical with book written by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, and music by Matthew Sklar, with lyrics by Chad Beguelin. What a great team.
It opened with Santa, played skillfully by Randy Honaker, reading the story of Elf to the audience. Danny Inkley directed this production, and I liked his choice to put Santa off to the side so we could see the story unfold in the center. It also made Santa’s sitting room seem more cozy. He had the kids make extra large movements when talking which helped to draw my attention to them, like when one elf threw her arms out to the sides with hands big as she said, “In a good way.” Near the end it started snowing through the whole theater, which was so cool. I later found out it was made out of peppermint foam soap. Inkley did great work with the tempo and timing of this production.
Choreographer Kristin Callor spared no moment and each dance was full of fun. I enjoyed the kids dancing in the elf costumes, and their frozen poses looked great. All of the New Yorkers were enjoyable to watch bustling around the stage and freezing in their positions periodically, which could have been Inkley’s choice, but looked choreographed expertly. To contrast the large group dance numbers, they had the janitor, played by Silas Stott, do a hilarious solo dance while sweeping up the mess from the previous scene. It looked choreographed, but also spontaneous, so both Stott and Callor did a great job! I also enjoyed the grungy Santa’s dance during the song “Nobody Cares About Santa.” It was not only a comical addition to the Elf story, but reminded me slightly of the jail song in Chicago. At one point they were dancing on their knees, “stepping” and dragging the other knee side to side. It gave a flamenco or Russian mix into the jazzy choreography. The freeze poses she gave each person were unique, and each one was hilarious. Being a dancer myself, I greatly enjoyed the variety she choreographed in these numbers.
I was delighted to find that the character Buddy was played uniquely by Craig Williams with his own style. I didn’t feel like Will Farrell was calling the shots on how he should act. He was so fun and playful, and my kids laughed at all of his antics. One of my favorite moments was when he jumped up on his dad and wrapped his legs around him like a little kid would do. As a grown man in an elf costume, it was hilarious. Jovie was played by Jessica Oberg, and she killed it on the songs. Her annoyed demeanor during the first half of the show built up to an amazing moment when she started singing with a vibrant, jazzy voice that was original and a good fit for her character. I was a bit confused during a scene where she was on a park bench with a sleeveless dress, and she didn’t seem chilly or put her coat on, which seemed off, and that could have been a director’s choice.
I loved how Dan Frederickson, who played Walter Hobbs, had a clear character arc that was extremely fulfilling to see, especially in light of the spirit of Christmas. He had strong energy throughout that kept the show real. McKay Clemens played Michael Hobbes, Walter’s son, and he was a great performer. His zeal for everything was awesome, and his timing was perfect. I loved it when he first met Buddy and instantly gave him two high fives, accepting him as brother. Michael’s anger at his father later in the show was accurate and intense. Clemens’s performance reminded me of how important it is for parents to focus on being present with their kids.
Rachel Lindsay designed the costumes, and they looked wonderful. I loved the kids elf costumes, which were quilted and poofy to look cozy. Jovie’s final pink fuzzy dress with fur trim looked amazing. Buddy’s costume had the iconic yellow tights and his hat had a fun curl at the tip. I also loved the matching green plaid suits he and his dad wore at the end.
As the show was getting close to the end, my kids were so excited by the snow, they wanted to walk around the theatre trying to catch it. Some other kids joined in, and it seemed like such a perfect show for the whole family to enjoy. I also expected it to just be funny and silly, but they worked hard to make the message of this show hit the audience with force. It was all about being there for your family and believing that good things will come into your life, whatever you choose to believe. I also loved the message that being playful as an adult and seeing the world with the excitement and adventure that kids have is an important way to keep your life healthy and happy. I think this production would a great addition to anyone’s holiday season.