Elf, a Theatre Royal Plymouth production, presented by Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, is as good a show as you’ll see on any West End stage, says David Mullane
The first thing that strikes you is the very high production values, which are some of the highest this reviewer has ever seen presented on the BGET stage – think The Lion King or Wicked.
The sets are fabulous and get more Christmassy and wonderful as the show progresses. The music is performed live by a fifteen-piece orchestra and while the sound mix loses the vocals at times (which is often the case at the BGET) the show sounds big and confident.
Elf is based on the 2003 film of the same name, starring Will Ferrell and directed by Jon Favreau. Fans of the film will be pleased with the musical, which sticks fairly closely to the screenplay although Ben Forster makes for a much different Buddy the Elf than Will Ferrell, and that may not be a bad thing, if you ask this reviewer. Forster plays the character with more naivety while also being very, very funny and his voice is full and strong.
Forster is undoubtedly the star of the show but Irish audiences will also find themselves focusing at times on Jovie, Buddy’s love interest, performed by Love/Hate’s Aoibhinn McGinnity. The role of Jovie is small compared with the roles of Buddy and his family and McGinnity has only three songs, two of which she must share with others. ‘Never Fall in Love (with an Elf)’, her big number, comes near the top of the second act and she performs it well, her voice suited to the brassy love song. There’s something a little stiff about her performance though; she doesn’t seem fully relaxed onstage.
The musical’s book is written by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan, who has won Tony Awards for his work on Annie, Young Frankenstein and The Producers. Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin wrote the music and lyrics respectively and they previously partnered on The Wedding Singer. That show’s songs may not immediately spring to your mind and unfortunately Elf’s songs are similarly somewhat forgettable but for the time you’re in the theatre and under the show’s spell, they sound like a perfect mix of Broadway and Christmas.
If you’re looking for a Christmas show, you’ll get Christmas in spades from Elf. Santa’s sleigh flies off the stage and over the orchestra pit into the audience and then it begins to snow over the front rows of the stalls, renewing the Christmas spirit in audience members young and old.
For more information, visit Bord Gais Energy Theatre.
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