“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” Oh Elf The Musical had me singing all right. Honestly, the next day I couldn’t stop singing Christmas songs. I had finally caught the Christmas spirit bug.
Elf The Musical presented by the Canyon Theatre Guild was heartwarming and hilarious, just like the film but better because it was a musical and I LOVE musicals. I decided to ask my Grandma to go with me for that very reason. I enjoyed the film and was curious about how they turned it into a musical. I have been really enjoying this new phenomena. I saw Amelie The Musical and Little Miss Sunshine The Musical, and I loved both of them – and now I get to add Elf to the list.
Elf follows the story of Buddy, an orphan raised in the North Pole, who decides to go and meet his birth father who lives in New York City. He is innocent, optimistic, and filled with joy – unlike most New Yorkers. His father Walter is a children’s book publisher who has sold his soul to business and has become removed from the purpose of his job – not to make money, but to teach children important lessons about life while also making them happy. He has become a workaholic who neglects his wife and son, until Buddy arrives and sends his world snow-globe-swirlin’. When Walter makes a costly mistake at work, his boss Mr. Greenway threatens him – “Come up with a bestselling Christmas story by Christmas eve, or else!” – Walter is forced to choose between his career and his family. Elf is a beautiful father-son story with the importance of family at its heart. I was nearly crying when Walter’s son Michael says, “All I want for Christmas is to spend one day with my Dad.” Living abroad for seven years, I knew that feeling very well.
George Chavez was absolutely amazing in his portrayal of Buddy. He was bouncing off the walls with energy and enthusiasm. Both my grandma and I felt exhausted just watching. And yet, he captured the magic of Buddy through and through. Jack Anderson, Ally Loprete, and Jeff Vincent had great chemistry as family. I truly felt the heartache and rejoice as Walter realized his values. Christina Afetian as Jovie had a melting voice, while Jeremiah True’s sounded like roasted chestnuts. I absolutely adored Christopher Robbin as Mr. Greenway in his top hat and serious manner. He was especially wonderful in the Santas at a Chinese restaurant scene.
The set design was great, just enough to get us there. I was very impressed by how New York City was created – especially the kabob stand. They looked so real!
Oh, Elf The Musical got me in the Christmas spirit alright. Although, I had a very different understanding of the story than when I watched it in 3rd grade. From my professional experience supporting people with disabilities, I definitely thought that Buddy suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome. The ontext around Buddy’s birth, when Walter Hobbs described his mom, as “so fun and so much life,” and the fact that she never told Walter about the baby, made me think that his mother was not expecting a child, and may have still been out drinking In addition, their were certain behaviors that resembled FAS symptoms: that Buddy never realized that he was not an elf despite being a lot larger than everyone, having a different voice, and not being as good at his job; choosing to walk around for hours instead of trying to find a hotel or hostel; immediately trying to fight the fake Santa instead of asking someone about what was going on; how fidgety he got sitting in the office and his need to shred things; and his lack of awareness about social cues. These behaviors appeared to me to be the symptoms: hyperactive behavior, learning disability, intellectual disability, and poor reasoning and judgment skills. Often when people have FAS, they act like an adult-child, which is often how Buddy is described.
When I looked at Buddy in this way, the narrative was still surprisingly empowering. Buddy was celebrated for his differences, and found a woman a family that supported, accepted, and encouraged him. They loved him, and we the audience loved him. We wanted Buddy to find happiness, we wanted him to be our boyfriend, our brother, our son. And he did. It is rare to find stories like this about people with this kind of disability.
Overall, I’d recommend seeing this musical, it really got me ready for Christmas! I also loved supporting local theatre. It was wonderful to greet all the performers after. We even shook hands with Mr. Greenway. “Thanks for coming,” he said in his suit as we walked into the California winter night.