TR Robertson – The minute you enter The Theatre at the Welk this time of year you are in the Christmas holiday spirit as the theatre lobby is in full holiday display with several decorated Christmas trees, lots of decoration around the food/drink bar, a set of elf cut-outs for pictures, a large fuzzy moving reindeer and a massive “ELF the Musical” decorated Christmas tree. Along with the decorations a number of guests for the evening were outfitted in a variety of colorful holiday sweaters and vests. The holiday spirit all presented for their current musical, “ELF the Musical”, now on stage until December 24th, with performances Thursdays & Saturdays at 1 pm & 7 pm and Sundays at 1 pm.
“ELF the Musical” is taken from a book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin with Music by Matthew Sklar, Lyrics by Chad Beguelin and based on the 2003 movie “Elf” starring Will Ferrell and James Caan, written by David Berenbaum. “Elf the Musical” ran on Broadway for the Christmas seasons of 2010-2011 and 2012-2013 opening at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in 2010. The Welk production is Directed and Choreographed by Rober Castellano, Produced by Larry Raben and Randi Rudolph is the Music Director.
The musical centers around Buddy the Elf, an orphaned human baby that had crawled into Santa’s bag one Christmas and then was discovered in the bag in Christmas Town, Santa’s home. He was raised by Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the elves, only now he is a full-sized human. Santa tells him the name of his father and informs him his father is on the naughty list as he doesn’t believe in Santa. Buddy sets off to New York City to find his father. In New York, the over-the-top enthusiastic Buddy does find his father, but along the way causes a variety of incidents that upset his father. Buddy also discovers he has a stepmother and a half-brother who are also skeptical of the existence of Santa. He also meets a young lady while working for Macy’s Department Store and discovers he has feelings for her, even though she has lost her Christmas Spirit as well. Buddy is determined to make things right with his father, bring the Christmas Spirit and true meaning of Christmas to everyone around him and to finally have a family to be with to celebrate Christmas.
Photos by Rich Soublet
The Welk cast is complemented by performers with wonderful singing voices, exceptional dancers and are obviously having a great time bringing this musical to the stage. This is a perfect family musical for the holiday season and especially wonderful for younger children as Buddy the Elf is a little goofy, silly, and full of energy. He will keep the kid’s spell bound. The messages of the musical though apply to people of all ages. Messages like the importance of family, taking on challenges and never giving up, and keeping the spirit of the holidays always in your heart.
Bringing all of this to the stage begins with Dan Mason, as the 21st century Santa, complete with iPad to check his naughty list and beginning as the musical’s narrator, reading the story of Buddy the Elf, played by Bryan Banville. Banville’s enthusiasm on stage is infectious and just silly enough to be enjoyable and he has great facial expressions and a wonderful singing voice. Bryan had to be exhausted at the end of his performance with all of his running, antics, and dancing on stage. Playing Buddy’s father is six-time LA Stage Alliance Ovation Award winner David Engel. Buddy’s father is frustrated with his job as a children’s book publisher and the emergence of Buddy in his life just complicates everything. David’s presentation of Buddy’s father is spot-on, and you can feel his frustration with every antic Buddy gets involved in. Erica Marie Weisz portrays the understanding and supportive stepmom Emily Hobbs. Emma Nossal plays Jovie, Buddy’s girlfriend, and gets to show an outstanding voice when she sings the “love?” song “Never Fall in Love with an Elf”. Andrew Gorman is Buddy’s half-brother Michael. Andrew was on stage last holiday season at the Old Globe as Little Who in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”. Andrew has great stage presence especially in singing performances with Erica Marie Weisz in “I’ll Believe in You” and “There is a Santa Claus”.
The remainder of the cast plays a number of different roles ranging from office workers to New York citizens to department store employees and more. The group dance numbers were audience favorites but perhaps the performance that the audience enjoyed the most was in the beginning of the musical when the ensemble became elves, on their knees with “shoes” on their knees, singing and dancing to “Happy All the Time” at the North Pole. This group of performers included Jacquelyn Ritz, Ricky Bulda, Morgan Carberry, Max Cadillac, Jupityr Shaw, Brian Osuna, Matthew Ryan Tori Waner, Osvaldo Mendoza and Marisa Moenho.
The musical’s Production Staff includes Stage Manager Lauuren Paris, Set Designer McKenna Perry, Set Builder Rogelio Rosales, Prop Designers Melanie Cavaness & Gretchen Morales, Costume Designer Janet Pitcher, Wig Designer Peter Herman, Wig Coordinator Kathleen Kenna, Lighting Designer Jennifer Edwards, and Crew Madison Paris, Amber Whitmore, Meagan Pitcher.
This is a perfect beginning to the holiday season and a wonderful way to introduce young people to musical theatre, if they have never been before. Arrive a little early and take advantage of holiday picture opportunities in the lobby. Tickets for the performance are $67, children 14 and under are #32.50. For tickets or ticket information call 760-749-3448 or 800-802-7469. You can also go to www.tickets.welsandiego.com. For group reservations of 15 or more call 760-749-3182, ext. 22154,