Jovie (Megan Artherton) and Buddy (Joe Perry) – photo © Threshold Theatre
Here is your checklist:
Do you like American family humour? – check
Do you like Christmas? – check
Do you believe in Santa Claus? – check
Do you like a musical bursting with song and dance? – check
If you ticked all four on this list then it is likely that you are already familiar with the film version of the musical starring Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel and this lively stage production will not disappoint you. Threshold Theatre Company are an established local company who work hard to give us very polished performances in this well paced and engaging musical.
Buddy the Elf grows up with Santa Claus (Richard Delahaye) in his workshops at the North Pole, and Santa himself narrates this tale. Buddy, played with boundless enthusiasm by Joe Perry, is in fact a human orphan taken in by accident by Santa many years ago. He realises that he is a bit different to the other tiny elves but overhears a discussion about him being human which he had not yet realised.
Santa decides to send him off to find his father Walter Hobbs (Ian Chisholm) in New York City, a busy book publisher with little time free for his wife Emily (Sam Parker) and son Michael (Korben White). Buddy bursts into the life of the Hobbs family but his father does not seem keen to acknowledge him and he is shipped off to work in the Christmas section of a department store, where he tries to spread his characteristically chaotic passion for all things Santa related. He takes a shine to shop girl Jovie (Megan Artherton) who is having a tough time in the big city and not feeling very Christmassy. After a considerable number of relentlessly positive approaches from Buddy she finally agrees to go on a date with him.
The show is packed with lively songs which are delivered with great elan by the principals and the rest of this capable cast. The cast also make full use of the rather tight Playhouse stage space for some clever tap dance routines.
Joe Perry is great fun as the unstoppably cheerful Buddy, managing to give us an over-the-top character that we can still find emotionally engaging. He maintains a high energy level throughout the show. Megan Artherton is perfectly cast as his girlfriend Jovie, her initial reluctance towards Buddy breaking into a beguiling charm with a perfect calibration as the show progresses. Both sing well and have a good on stage chemistry in their scenes together.
Ian Chisholm manages the transition from busy corporate city slicker to happy family man as the tale unfolds, clearly he is kept in line by Sam Parker as his sassy New York wife. The Hobbs family member who got the biggest applause, deservedly, was young Korben White as the Hobbs younger son Michael, delighted to find he has a big brother who can join him in all sorts of capers. Korben is a confident and assured performer who can also sing well, his duets with Sam as his mother are a delight.
Director Dan Rayner has rehearsed his cast thoroughly, this is evident from their confidence and accuracy on a first night performance with none of the rough edges or uncomfortable pauses that mark some productions. The American script has an open-eyed frankness and simplicity which makes it a rather different offer from the traditional English Panto which is expected to be full of double entendres. This clever cast ensure that simple does not equal banal and even the most curmudgeonly audience member will walk home with a smile whistling a tune or two. This is a happy show for the whole family to enjoy in the run-up to Christmas.
© Julian Swainson 2018
Elf The Musical is at Norwich Playhouse until 22 December 2018. Tickets £20/£17 All shows 7.30 pm with a 2.30pm matinee on Saturday 22 December. Call 01603 598598
Please note this show is currently sold out, but returns may be available at the box office. http://www.norwichplayhouse.co.uk/whats-on/detail/elf-the-musical