Utah Arts Review »Blog Archive» The Pioneer Theater ” Elf ‘Offers A Comedic Sugar Rush To Spend The Holidays
Are you feeling a little down on the joys of Christmas after another year of pandemic and conflict? Then Pioneer Theater Company‘s Elf the Musical could be the show for you.
Adapted from the 2003 film Will Ferrell by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin (book), Matthew Sklar (music) and Chad Beguelin (lyrics), Elf manages to balance a contemporary sensibility with the catchy energy of classical musical theater song and dance. Pioneer’s eye-catching production, which kicked off on Friday, is supported by a strong and enthusiastic cast.
Located in a current alternative where TikTok exists but the coronavirus pandemic apparently does not exist, Elf is the story of Buddy, a 30-year-old man who faces the heartbreaking news that the elves who raised him are not his biological family. Buddy travels to New York to reunite with his father and rekindle the Christmas spirit that animates Santa’s sleigh.
His new family and new colleagues are bewildered at first, but it doesn’t take long before his wide-eyed charm wins over them – and the audience -.
The score includes a dozen original songs, most of them catchy and upbeat. The action slows down briefly in the middle of each act, first when Buddy’s mother-in-law and brother find out that the gifts they want most don’t come from a store, and then when his new girlfriend wonders. how she got involved with this wacky man. Otherwise, it’s âSparkleJollyTwinkleJingleyâ all the time, with an energetic dance break around every corner.
Max Chernin lives completely in the title role. It’s a bundle of sweetness and comedic verve wrapped in gold and green, with a voice that easily meets the demands of the score and a humanity that keeps Buddy from getting cloying.
Antoinette Comer plays Jovie, the department store elf who is at first puzzled by Buddy but ends up forming a romantic relationship with him. Comer makes the entire arc believable, and his âNever Fall in Love (with an Elf)â soars.
Two supporting actors almost stole the show.
Carlita Victoria is utterly irresistible as Secretary Deb with a playful streak and firecracker energy that rivals that of Buddy. And as Buddy’s half-brother, Utah teen Grant Westcott is a triple threat: dancing like a pro, singing with superb technique, and convincingly portraying the transformation of a rolling eyed teenager. to the biggest fan of Santa Claus. (Westcott alternates with Austin Flamm.)
Christopher Gurr makes a similar transition from icy disapproval to fatherly warmth as Buddy’s father, Walter Hobbs. Mary Fanning Driggs as Emily, Walter’s harassed but kind wife; Howard Kaye, comedic swagger as publishing mogul, Mr. Greenway; and David Baida, scoring laughs with his wide-eyed panic as Macy’s manager, also impresses.
Under the direction of Alan Muraoka and choreographer Rommy Sandhu, the mass distribution sings and dances brilliantly. KL Alberts’ costume design and James Kronzer’s snow globe set offer a plethora of visual gags. The sad-sack Saint Nicks choir line in “Nobody Cares About Santa”, alone is worth the price of admission.
As entertaining as it is, the pace is bumpy, an issue that stems from the show’s book rather than the performances or any shift in direction from opening night.
For example, Jason Simon’s Sardonic Santa Claus is so deliciously funny that he might not record that his opening monologue is longer than it should be. The quiet start makes the frenetic display that followed in Santa’s Shop seem all the more rushed.
And while you might be surprised at how much time has passed when you reach the end of this sugar sleigh ride, two and a half hours may be too long for a show aimed at kids of all ages.
Elf runs through December 18 at the Roy W. and Elizabeth E. Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theater; 801-581-6961 or Pioneertheatre.org
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