ELF the Musical

Songs by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin
Dominion Theatre

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Simon Lipkin as Buddy Credit: Mark Senior
Rebecca Lock and Frankie Treadway as Emily and Michael Hobbs Credit: Mark Senior
The cast of ELF Credit: Mark Senior

Jingle all the way or bah humbug? Spoiler alert: ELF The Musical is a show full of candy canes, catchphrases and unapologetic Christmas cheer; not a show for the festively challenged.

Based on the 2003 film, ELF tells the story of Buddy, a human child raised by elves at the North Pole. After discovering his true heritage, he goes in search of his real dad in the city that never sleeps and experiences, for the first time, people without Christmas spirit. Like all good Christmas movies, however, he eventually wins the hearts of stubborn New Yorkers and finds a family just in time for the big day.

The stage version follows the same tale and is a faithful version without attempting to be a carbon copy. The plot is safely familiar and the budget enables a glossy representation that could fall flat, however what gives this show its appeal is the fantastic casting.

As Buddy, Simon Lipkin offers a sprinkle of Will Ferrell but radiates his own brand of warmth; for such a boisterous character, he brings an almost understated charm and is instantly likeable in a role that so easily could tip into irritating. With sharp comedic timing, great voice and nifty moves, he’s every inch the leading man, even managing to bring a few moments of pathos to the proceedings.

Georgina Castle is underutilised as girlfriend Jovie but owns her song of lament and provides a charmingly down-to-earth partner for Lipkin’s antics. They have a sweet chemistry which lends the show a great deal of heart.

A rather sprightly and suspiciously young-looking Tom Chambers aims for a gruff performance but unable to hide his natural twinkle largely comes across as disgruntled in the role of workaholic Walter Hobbs. His Christmas spirit U-turn would give anyone else whiplash, but Chambers manages it with ease and is clearly at home, particularly during the tap numbers.

Buddy doesn’t just find his dad, however; he also discovers a stepmum and little brother. Rebecca Lock is in fine form as the loving but frustrated Emily Hobbs and sparkles throughout. The scenes between her and Michael (played by a beautifully confident Logan Clark for this performance) give a glimpse into Hobbs family life and underline everything that Walter is missing. Their giddy excitement towards the climax of the show give great energy and again provides warmth.

Kim Ismay also provides a lively turn as secretary Deb, although which decade she’s from remains unclear. Caught between curiosity and confusion, her background touches are as delightful to watch as her leading moments.

Indeed, there are lovely moments scattered throughout the show with the twirling, leaping, kicking and occasionally gliding supporting cast morphing into elves, New Yorkers, office workers, Macy's employees and of course, in what could be deemed at 11 o’clock number, disgruntled Santas.

Connoisseurs of musical theatre may find elements of the score generic and the beautifully designed sets and costumes jar with the book, their 1950s vibe contrasting with modern references to Netflix and Sky remotes. However, Elf is a grand spectacle with many costume changes, numerous dance styles, impressive sets and finale effect that earns a genuine “oooh”.

For fans of the film, those seeking a panto alternative or people who simply enjoy a feel-good show, then this is a must-see festive treat. Those without syrup in their veins however are best to steer clear—it’d be a long show for the cynical.

Reviewer: Amy Yorston

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