reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Everyone who has seen the 2003 Will Ferrell film – Elf, is familiar with the story of Buddy Hobbs who, as an orphan baby, crept into Santa’s toy sack one Christmas Eve, only to be brought back home by the jolly one to become part of the colony of elves at the North Pole, eventually growing to be the largest of that crew. Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s holiday offering – Elf, the Musical takes that story and resets it as a joyfully rousing tale with a wealth of songs, lively dances and broadly played characterizations.

Having moved away from its traditional Christmas revue after 25 festive editions, B&B’s production of this well-known holiday fare could not have been a better choice. The talented cast, festooned in Jill Kelly Howe’s amazingly colorful costumes, on the modern-styled set by Michael Layton, is directed by Douglas E. Stark, who has a turn onstage himself as (whisper) Old St. Nick. The sparkling musical score played by B&B’s orchestra is led by Kristy Templet, with choreography by B&B regular Ron Morgan. 

from left: Buddy (Don Bob Higgins) and Jovie (Emily Grace Tucker) in a scene from B&B’s production of “Elf, the Musical”

Dan Bob Higgins takes the role of Buddy, and with a noteworthy flourish of innocence and naivete, propels his giant elf in a lively and energetic performance filled with joy and fun. Blessed with a remarkable vocal talent coupled with an easy dancing style, Higgins is perfect in the role, so much so that it is a bit difficult to envision his last B&B appearance as Bernardo in the summer of 2017’s West Side Story.  Playing his romantic interest – Jovie, is Emily Grace Tucker. She displays her own impressive set of vocal and dance talents and is an ideally jaded foil for Buddy’s wide-eyed nature. 

from left: Buddy (Dan Bob Higgins), Michael Hobbs (Aiden Shurr), Emily Hobbs (Heather Patterson King) and Walter Hobbs (Mark Epperson) in a scene from B&B’s production of “Elf, the Musical”

Three notable featured roles are issued by Mark Epperson as Buddy’s father
Walter Hobbs, Heather Patterson King as step-mother Emily, and Aiden Shurr as brother Michael. All three give adroit performances with 5th grader Shurr showing a stage maturity that impresses. A large ensemble fills the essential minor roles with unfailing skillfulness. Standouts include Kenney M. Green as a feisty department store manager, Jonathan Fluck as the bah-humbug boss Mr. Greenway, and Brad Mutter and Peter Scharbrough as Walter Hobbs’ top assistants – Chadwick and Matthews. Two very young ladies, Emery Jane Allen, and Sylvie Templet, are both bright spots in the ensemble’s proceedings. 

Buddy and the ensemble in a scene from B&B’s production of “Elf, the Musical”

Bottomline: Some may miss the traditional B&B Christmas, and that is understandable. But I applaud the theatre’s choice to change the holiday offering to a more timely show. Elf, the Musical is a great choice – colorfully festive, spirited, and with just enough Christmas magic to bring a measure of wonder to children’s imaginations – the show is a must-see for the season. And bring an appetite, as Chef Odell Ward has done wonders in his kitchen.

Elf, the Musical continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through December 31st. Show times and reservations can be viewed at or you may call the box office at  317-872-9664. 

Finally – I’d like to express my wish for a very happy holiday season to all my readers and especially to my inestimable staff of cohorts: Larry, Adam, Mark, Vickie, and our most recent addition – Dave.

  • – Photos by Julie Curry