Book: Thomas Meehan & Bob Martin
Music: Matthew Sklar
Lyrics: Chad Begulen
Director: Morgan Young
Reviewer: Alisha McCracken
If you are looking for a sparklejollytwinklejingley treat to take the family to this festive season, then one would be hard pushed to find a more enjoyable, feel good, sugarcoated show than Elf currently taking residency at The Lowry this Christmas.
Based on the hit movie of the same name Elf, tales the tale of Buddy the Elf (Ben Forster), who, crawls into Santa’s sack as a baby and ends up being brought up as an Elf… obviously being human, things don’t always go to plan for Buddy and his Elf skills are lacking, at the age of 30, Santa (Louis Emerick) sends the haphazard elf to New York to search for his real father Mr. Hobbs (Joe McGann). His introduction to the city is a fast-paced whirlwind and a major lesson in growing up and what it means to be an adult.
Morgan Young’s fast-paced production certainly packs plenty into its two and a half hour running time, although one would question is a family musical really hitting its target audience with a first act running time of 90minutes? That said, Young injects plenty of energy and brings out every comic opportunity the material offers and fills the musical numbers with some witty and engaging choreography especially the tap-extravaganza finale which plays real homage to White Christmas and the golden era of Hollywood Musicals. These feel-good numbers are brought to life by an engaging ensemble which help to really light up the stage.
As the titular role Ben Forster is magnificent as Buddy, clearly relishing the role and enjoying every moment of being mad-cap-crazy, especially after long stints in more serious roles such as Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar and The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera. Forster also benefits from several great numbers by writers Matthew Sklar and Chad Begulen. I challenge anyone not to be able to sing the earworm A Christmas Song days after hearing it.
Atomic Kitten’s Liz McClarnon gives Buddy’s love interest Jovie real heart especially in a role that here, in the musical is rather underwritten, but without making the musical a three-hour epic, it’s hard to see where things could be improved. In fact, similar could be said for Jessica Martin as Emily Hobb’s, here is a performer with a sensational singing voice that’s given just one number at the end of act two. Joe McGann as Walter Hobb’s brings a fierce energy to the stage as the hard-pushed book publisher and father of Buddy. Louis Emerick makes for a gentle and cheeky scouse Santa which is juxtaposed brilliantly by the bombastic approach of Mr. Greenway.
Comedy is brought to the forefront in a delightfully over-the-top performance by Lori Hayley Fox as receptionist and personal assistant Deb, one can’t fail to be won over by this larger than life performance. Sharing the role of Buddy’s younger brother Michael Hobbs, Lochlan White gives an assured and confident performance and the chemistry between himself and Foster is heart-warming to see.
Played out on a bright and engaging set designed by Tim Goodchild, the musical is given a picture book feel to proceedings and actually makes the large Lyric Theatre stage feel small and intimate, which is no easy feat. With magic around every corner of the musical, it’s hard not to be won over by its charm and good nature and provides plenty to enjoy for the young and the old… I’m now off to make and throw snow into everybody’s face!
Runs until 14th January 2018 | Image: Contributed