reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

We continue our visits to the immense variety of holiday fare offered in central Indiana venues with Civic Theatre’s production of Elf – The Musical. This 2010 Broadway musical is, of course, based on the highly successful 2003 film – Elf. With a score by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, and a book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, the adaptation is a wonderful seasonal choice.

Director Michael J. Lasley’s production combines the cast’s strong vocal talents, outstanding inventive choreography by Anne Beck, and notable orchestral proficiency under the baton of Matthew Tippel, with a Broadway-level scenic design by Christine Peters. Adrienne Conces’ numerous colorful costumes illuminate the story, as do Ryan Koharchik’s fine lighting designs. Musical Director Brent E. Marty lead the amazing vocal work.

Santa (Parrish Williams) and Buddy the Elf (Matt Bays) in a scene from Civic Theatre’s “Elf – The Musical”

The plot tells of Buddy, an elf who at age 30 finds out he is not an elf at all, but a human. As a baby, Buddy somehow found his way into Santa’s pack and was taken to the North Pole, where he was raised by the elves. Santa sends him out to find his father, who knows nothing of his grown son. In NYC, Buddy has adventures with his new family, with a corps of department store elves, with his first feelings of love for Jovie, and as a savior of the Christmas spirit when Santa’s sleigh crashes into Central Park.

Michael (Ben Boyce) and Emily (Carrie Neal) sing “I’ll Believe in You” in a scene from Civic Theatre’s “Elf – The Musical”

Matt Bays takes the lead role as Buddy the elf, with impressive singing and dancing skills. He is matched in those departments by his “family” – made up by J. Stuart Mill as Walter Hobbs – his long-lost father, Carrie Neal as Walter’s wife Emily, and Ben Boyce as their son Michael. Emily Schaab plays Buddy’s love interest, Jovie in a well sung rendition – while Parrish Williams is a wryly humorous Santa Claus. Jonathan Studdard and Mary Margaret Montgomery are stand-outs in their portrayals of the Macy’s North Pole Manager and Mr. Hobbs’ office manager, Deb.

Some of Christine Peters’ wonderful scenic design is on display in this scene from Civic Theatre’s “Elf – The Musical” with Jovi (Emily Schaab) and Buddy (Matt Bays).

There are plenty of musical highlights in the show, especially the full production pieces – such as the first act’s opening number – “Happy All The Time”, featuring a multitude of elves, and the act two opener – “Nobody Cares”, which features at least two dozen Santas – a vision of red and white in motion. Ms. Beck’s choreography certainly is a superior aspect throughout the show – and one must praise her dancers for their high mark efforts. On the smaller side, both duets by mother and son – Carrie Neal and Ben Boyce’s “I’ll Believe in You” and “There is a Santa Claus”, are top-notch performances.

Buddy (center, Matt Bays) introduces his family – Walter (J. Stuart Mills), Emily (Carrie Neal) and Michael (Ben Boyce) to Santa (Parrish Williams) in a scene from Civic Theatre’s “Elf – The Musical”

Bottomline: the combination of rousing musical performances and sometimes uneven acting offerings takes nothing away from the fact that this is a nifty holiday production. The story lifts the spirit and the big musical numbers raise the roof.

Elf – The Musical continues at the Booth Tarkington Theatre in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel through December 28th. For ticket information and reservations call 317.843.3800 or go online at http://www.civictheatre.org .

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing

🎅🎄Merry Christmas to all our readers! 🎄🎅