CENTERVILLE — In what is sure to become a regular in the Utah Christmas theatre scene, CenterPoint Legacy Theatre opened a production of Elf the Musical, written by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, with music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Chad Beguelin. The story follows Buddy, an elf that turns out to be a human adopted by elves. Upon finding out this information, Buddy (played by Aaron Ford), leaves the North Pole, the only place he has ever known, to search for his father in New York City.
The show was charming enough and entertaining, but fails to make it onto my list of favorite Christmas shows. The CenterPoint cast, directed by Maurie Tarbox, certainly had some fun moments, and there were technical elements that were very impressive. Set designer Scott Van Dyke did a great job building both the North Pole and various locations in New York City. My favorite set was the ice skating rink in front of Rockefeller Center, which was so realistic and functional that I still wonder how Van Dyke did it. I also enjoyed how the lighting design by David Reese combined with the set to create a magical Christmas land at the North Pole. But as a former New Yorker, I appreciated even more how the lighting, sets, and projection brought back memories of the magic that Christmas can be in Manhattan. Costuming by Rachel Lindsay was also fantastic, with Buddy’s costume, all the elves, and Santa and Mrs. Claus making a stark contrast when looking at the New Yorkers in their business attire.
One of the main highlights of the production was the choreography by Kelley Richardson. A particular favorite was “Sparklejollytwinklejingleu,” with fantastic tap dancing. This excellence was repeated with the song “The Story of Buddy the Elf,” where the entire cast got to show off their dancing skills.
Ford created a fine performance as Buddy, an innocent elf thrown into a world of chaos and a lot more anger and frustration than he is used to. He and the elves open the show with the song “Christmastown,” which is a fun way to express the joy of Christmas time, and Ford portrays the innocent joy well. His father, Mr. Walter Hobbs (played by Todd Wente) was also well cast, and his voice when he sang the reprise to “In the Way” was beautiful. Mrs. Hobbs (played by Kirsten Jacobson) and their son Michael Hobbs (played by Zach Abercrombie) were also fun to watch. The song “I’ll Believe in You” was a touching duet, and both of their voices had a strong blend and clear tone. I also enjoyed the realistic, friendly connection between Ford and Abercrombie.
Dave Hill, in the role of Santa Claus, narrated the story. Hill has the perfect look for Santa, and parts of his performance were excellent. However, he stumbled over a lot of his lines and entrances, and that was distracting from the full performance. Mr. Hobb’s secretary, Deb, was played by Angela Brown, and I enjoyed her vocals in the song “In the Way,” as well as her overall charisma throughout the show.
Jovie (played by Hannah Roskelley) is a lonely Macy’s employee who gains some (misguided) hope from Buddy. Roskelley sings a song in the middle of act two entitled “Never Fall in Love,” and it was probably the best musical number of the evening. Roskelley’s voice is fantastic, and it comes as a bit of a surprise because she spends much of the show insisting that she cannot sing. I enjoyed her performance, even though I felt the song was perhaps misplaced in the show.
Overall, the evening had some fun moments and an enjoyable, talented cast and creative team. But there was much that seemed out of place in the story and music. Additionally, Elf the Musical follows a well known pattern of a disillusioned character having a change of heart during the Christmas season. While that pattern of story is classic, the script is overdone and tries too hard. The CenterPoint team put together a fine production with the material they were given, and it is certainly something that the whole family can enjoy together.