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A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
Elf may not be one of the best adaptations from film to stage, and it most certainly isn't a great or even a very good musical. However, if you leave the theater without a smile on your face and feeling good for having been there then there is something seriously wrong with you. For whatever reason, almost everything that I perceived was wrong and had rubbed me the wrong way with the show the first time around needs to be reconsidered.
As close to a perfect holiday attraction for the whole family as one can get (barring the obligatory resurrections across the continent of A Christmas Carol, Elf has a story that just doesn't place any value on being credible on any level, but it embraces its aspirations and all of its absurdities to the fullest. I admit to feeling a bit foolish in reversing my first opinion, yet I can see how the current production has worked its joy-filled magic. In every way, this staging and the performances surpass the 2010 show that I reviewed for CurtainUp.
A main part of my enjoyment and my involvement this time comes from the honest sincerity that can be seen as well as sensed by the goofy almost giddy actions of James Moye as the naive and incurably optimistic Buddy. Moye, a North Bergen, N.J. native with numerous Broadway credits, is a charmer. He's a fine singer who effortlessly dominates the musical as we follow his endearingly awkward attempt to unite with his human family in New York City. Another plus is the stringent performance by veteran, award-winning Broadway performer Robert Cuccioli as Walter Hobbs who amusingly completes his task to get off of Santa's naughty list for being a mean-spirited executive in a children's book publishing company as well as an uninvolved parent.
Helping him to achieve his role as a caring and loving head of the household with gusto are Heidi Blickenstaff as his determined wife and the terrific young actor-singer Jake Faragalli as their son Michael. Other standouts are DeMone as the confounded manager the North Pole department at Macy's; Jessica Sheridan as the Mr. Hobb's bubbly secretary and Kate Fahrner as the pretty Macy employee whose resistant heart is ready to be softened by Buddy.
While none of the songs stand out, they do compliment the silly business, and there is lots of it along with the musical's sentimental side. Book-ended by a jolly story-telling, joke-propelled Santa (an exuberantly jolly Paul C Vogt), this production doesn't cheat on spectacle: Santa in his sleigh flying high over Central Park, the chaos created by Buddy in Macy's toy department, the elegance of the skaters in the ice rink at Rockefeller Center, and the interior of a Chinese restaurant where eight weary Santas have gathered for dinner and for a little tap dancing on the side. Choreographer Josh Rhodes'dances are distinguished by their effervescence and without being show-offy. For show-offy we love the shower of snowflakes that brings this funny and fantastical musical to a close.
Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show
Slings & Arrows-the complete set
You don't have to be a Shakespeare aficionado to love all 21 episodes of this hilarious and moving Canadian TV series about a fictional Shakespeare Company