Image © James Everett Photography
ELF: THE MUSICAL
The Lowry, Salford Quays
Until Sunday 14th January, 2018
Manchester theatre audiences may well be spoilt for choice this festive season with a plethora of hits on offer including the likes of Nativity and Beautiful at the Palace, Guys and Dolls at the Royal Exchange and Dick Whittington at the Opera House, though on the strength of last night’s opening night performance, they will all have their work cut out for them as Elf: The Musical and The Lowry have set the bar very high indeed.
Adapted from one of the most beloved Christmas films of this century, Elf follows the warm and tender tale of Buddy, a 30-year old, fully-grown human being who crawled into Santa’s bag of gifts as an orphan and has spent his life living and working with Santa and the Elves in his North Pole workshop; though despite his enormous size and poor toy-making abilities, Buddy is completely unaware that he is in fact human. When Santa eventually tells him the truth, Buddy journeys all the way to New York City (via iceberg) to find his real dad, discover his true identity, and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas.
Reprising his acclaimed performance from both the original 2014 UK premiere in Plymouth – and the 2015 West End transfer at the Dominion Theatre – a vocally-impressive, high-energy Ben Forster excels as Buddy and drives the vast majority of the show in fine style.
The supporting cast boasts a lovely performance from Liz McClarnon as Jovie, the unenthusiastic department store worker who falls for Buddy’s goofy charm, as well as good work from Graham Lappin as the Macy’s store manager, Joe McGann as children’s book publisher, and Buddy’s real father, Walter Hobbs, Lori Haley Fox as Walter’s secretary, Deb, and Jessica Martin as Walter’s wife, Emily. Though American accents do wander from time to time, the company are mostly very strong and produce a huge sound with some impressive vocal harmonies.
Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan’s book remains fairly faithful to the original film, though fans will notice a number of key differences, most notably: the absence of Buddy’s mentor (and the film’s narrator), Papa Elf; the cutting of a number of famous scenes (in particular Buddy’s visit to the mail room); the location of the department store being changed from Gimbels to Macy’s; and the changed nature of some principle characters, notably Walter, who is here depicted as overworked and stressed in contrast to the deliberately neglectful and greed-obsessed businessman James Can portrays in the film.
If anything the musical dilutes a lot of the film dialogue for a family audience, putting greater emphasis on the visuals and the sentimental message at its core, though some of the cuts and changes are a little bizarre.
Accompanied by back projections from video designer Ian William Galloway, superb, lavish sets and colourful costumes from production designer Tim Goodchild often fill the stage in spectacular, big-budget fashion, though sadly to the nature of the touring production, some aspects have had to be scaled down a little.
Director & Choreographer Morgan Young’s production is nicely paced and delivers some inspired moments: the opening sequence in Santa’s workshop is brilliantly done.
Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin’s songs are rather surprising and contain more than a few big Broadway style showstoppers and some lovely moving ballads.
If you’re looking for perfect feel-good entertainment for all the family this Christmas then look no further than Elf; it’s warm, charming and guaranteed to get you in the festive spirit.
Running Time: 2 hours and 40-minutes (approx.), including one 20-minute interval.
Final Performance at The Lowry: Sunday 14th January, 2018
For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.