David Schlumpf is Buddy the Elf with the ensemble in Elf: The Musical at Olney Theatre Center. (Photo: Stan Barouh)
Who needs reindeer when this Christmas spirit will send you soaring?
It's just what Santa ordered for the grumps in the house and the cheery adults and hyper-excited children all together now to watch, laugh, and enjoy the newest production at Olney Theatre Center,
Elf: The Musical.
It's lots of fun with superb dancing (by choreographer Tara Jeanne Vallee), colorful costumes (by Kendra Rai) action (Michael J. Bobbitt directs 23), and a plot to boot, all based on the hoot of the 2003 movie starring Will Ferrell.
I loved this version and sat in wonder, like watching a giant, magical sleigh led by eight tiny reindeer guiding Santa and his bags of toys across a dark sky, and, as a matter of fact, it happens.
It's a slow few seconds at the beginning while the audience adjusts to the North Pole. Scenic designer Daniel Ettinger succeeds in transposing to onlookers the cold of the icy landscape with green and silver trees shimmering with snowflakes under a royal blue sky with twinkling stars.
In this Land of Believe, an orphan elf, Buddy (David Schlump) has discovered he's not an elf at all but a real, live human! (Political side note: Do you think if our president to the North Pole he would discover he's human, after all?)
Is Buddy always this cheery? After years of living happily in Elf Kingdom, as Christmas approaches and with help from Santa (Kevin McAllister), Buddy determines to find his real bad, sad dad who is like many in New York City who work night and day.
Bobby Smith, the dad named Walter Hobbs, is always perfect in his sour old man roles, with a demeanor and mannerisms to convey his intense dissatisfaction with life, except for his loving wife (Janine Sunday), another make believe character, right from Santaland. She is the stepmom of Hobbs's son, Michael, age 12, who actually likes his stepmom. (Thank you, screenwriter David Berenbaum for not casting women as constant evildoers.)
Tyler Quintin Smallwood (and on alternate nights, Eli Langer) is Michael who says that children of workaholics are prone to self-esteem issues, and, "basically he's not even a dad." (Sad face.) Tyler is spot on in this role with a voice to match.
The show has lots of side angles, and you may be able to figure out the ending, but the entertainment is sure fun along the way.
Two of my favorite characters were the sassy, prancing Nova Y. Payton who is Deb, Hobbs's office assistant, and Calvin McCullough, the manager at Macy's who hires Buddy and asks: Is this "corporate" or is it not?
The tunes are mostly unknowns which doesn't affect enjoyment. Sad solos are not my cup of eggnog, for I tend to lean towards multi-voices like the "fake Santas" who dance and perform splits simultaneously mid-air while singing "Nobody Cares About Santa."
Elf is a delight, for most ages (with a few naughty words), and plenty of adult quips to spread audience laughter which sometimes overcomes the dialogue. That's good!
Angie Benson directs a nine-member orchestra in the pit.
Other cast members are Patricia Hurley, who is Jovie, Buddy's girlfriend, and Marty Austin Lamar, Mr. Greenway, the big, bad bossman.
In the ensemble are Jessica Bennett, Michelle E. Carter, Jennifer Flohr, Isabel Garcia, Andre Hinds, Christian Montgomery, Taylor Elise Rector, Connor James Reilly, Sarah Anne Sillers, David Singleton, and Lara Zim.
James Mernin and Amanda Kaplan are swings.
The crew includes Matt Rowe, sound director;
Max Doolittle, lighting; Kylie Clark, puppet master;
Sarah Tundermann, projection; Dori Beau Seigneur, wigs and hair; and John Keith Hall, production stage manager
Score by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin. Jason Loewith, artistic director. Debbie Ellinghaus, managing director
What: Elf The Musical by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin
Where: Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832.
When: Now through January 6, 2019, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. with matinees, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2 p.m. and more matinees at 2 p.m., Friday, Dec. 21, and Monday, Dec. 31.
Specially enhanced performances for the blind and hearing impaired Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 1 at 2 p.m. with a sign interpreted performance Thursday, Dec. 6 at 8 p.m.
Post show discussions: After matinees, Dec. 1, 8, and 15.
Tickets: Begin at $59 with discounts for groups, seniors, military, and students
Ages: The movie was rated "PG."
Duration: 2.5 hours with one 15 minute intermission
Refreshments: Available and may be taken to seats
Parking: Free and plentiful on-site
For more information: 301-924-3400 for the box office or 301-924-4485.