ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London Review
There is also a problem for the producers in mounting a Christmas or holiday season show for a couple of months. There just won't be the time to recoup costs of large sets, expensive costumes and a big cast. So, if despite the ticket prices, you limit your expectations then you are more likely to be pleased by the outcome. The show has received much advance publicity about the record breaking ticket prices, programmes at ten pounds, souvenir merchandise and ice creams also adding to the cost for the average family.
Ben Forster, who plays the outsized Elf, Buddy, has a charming personality. I spotted him as the likely winner of the 2012 show to select the musical actor to play Jesus in Jesus Christ, Superstar in the first episode and his singing voice is clear and powerful. He can act too, although the story takes a stretch to suspend disbelief. And the scruffy red wig, well I hope it is a wig, was not a good choice. I can refer you to Simon Saltzman's review of Elf in New York for the storyline and song list but I fear Simon liked the show even less than I did. (For Simon's review of this production in 2010 go here).
The other principal is Buddy's love interest, Jovie played by Kimberley Walsh, once of Girls Aloud, the girl group that launched Cheryl Cole's career. Like Forster, she too is a worthy musical star with brilliant vocals; this girl can really sing although her part is a bit of a downer as the dissatisfied shop girl who initially hasn't got the joy of the Christmas spirit.
I liked Jessica Martin who plays Buddy's step mother, and in this show she isn't the wicked stepmother of most Christmas pantomimes but a neglected wife whose workaholic husband (Joe McGann) resents the time at Christmas which takes him away from his work in publishing in the empire State Building. Now you would think wouldn't you that this hard hearted character was in high end business or technical publishing but actually his business is publishing children's books.
Jennie Dale does brilliantly as Deb, Mr Hobbs' comedic PA with strong personality acting and singing. The feel good factor is satisfied when Buddy bonds with his half brother Michael delightfully played by Harry Collett/Ilan Galkoff/Noah Key/Ewam Rutherford. I didn't find the tunes memorable on first hearing but the orchestra was excellent.
There are a few dance numbers I liked. One with tap dancers in Macy's, the New York department store where Kimberley Walsh is the only girl wearing a skirt but the shop workers are dressed in Christmas red and elfin green. The finale is also spectacular with the cast lined up in snowy white. Santa's fly past is underwhelming but there is snowfall and watch out if you are that far forward because you will get wet.
I had to keep reminding myself that this is a show for children who are already familiar with the jokes of the film: Santa smelling not like Santa but of beef and cheese as Buddy meets the hundreds of impersonating Santas, and Buddy talking about his curious reaction to Jovie, "I think you're really beautiful and I feel really warm when I'm around you and my tongue swells up." Talk about a double entendre not suitable for children!
I am sorry; Elf wasn't my cup of egg nog!
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.