By Mary Boyle
Fans of Will Ferrell and Christmas movies likely recall the 2003 film Elf, starring Ferrell as Buddy the Elf, who lives in Christmas Town at the North Pole. Much like Herbie in the animated television classic, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Buddy has never felt that he quite fit in: he can't make toys as well as the other elves, and he is so much bigger than any of them. Finally, Santa tells Buddy the truth: he is not an elf, but a human, who crawled into Santa's sack one Christmas Eve at an orphanage. Buddy's mother had passed away not long after he was born and, though the elves had raised him, he actually had a father who lived in New York City, who never knew he had a son, and it was time for Buddy to meet him. While the premise sounds corny and, let's face it, it is, the film was not only funny, it was absolutely heartwarming, and became an instant holiday classic. Trust me, if you love the movie, you'll love ELF, THE MUSICAL, which makes it's way, courtesy of First Stage, to the Todd Wehr Theater in Milwaukee this holiday season.
Directed by Jeff Schaetzke, Elf, The Musical really is essentially just like the film, just with parts converted to song instead of dialogue. Adam LaSalle makes a fabulous First Stage debut as Buddy the Elf, as well as Alan Ball, who plays Walter, Buddy's father. Rachel Whyte makes an impressive debut as Jovie, Buddy's girlfriend. Natalie Ford, as Walter's wife, Emily, also makes her First Stage debut, though you may have seen her at Skylight, Milwaukee Opera Theatre or In Tandem in Milwaukee in recent years, and Steve Watts as Santa Claus makes his First Stage debut, though he's been a regular at Fireside Theatre and has been in two productions at The Rep. The wonderful Kelly Doherty, who we saw as the Truchbull in last season's Matilda, The Musical at First Stage, returns as Deb, secretary to Walter, and Mrs. Claus. Marques Causey, who was fabulous in last season's Ben Butler with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, makes his return to First Stage as the Macy's Manager and Mr. Greenway. This production also has two large casts of young performers; I saw the SparkleJolly cast, and I have to note that Alex Radtke was brilliant as Michael, Walter and Emily's son.
Elf, The Musical truly is a wonderful holiday production for the entire family because it has laughs for all ages, but just enough magic and sentimentality to give it the proper tone for Christmas. I cried at the same part in the musical as I did in the movie; vocally, it was very strong. The production has already become the highest grossing in First Stage history, causing the run to be extended an additional week. This is the second full-length musical for First Stage, following last season's Matilda, The Musical, and although the lack of live music in both productions left them just short of spectacular, the quality of the productions and talent of the casts has brought First Stage to a whole new level of theatre entertainment for families. I'm looking forward to seeing more of these types of productions from First Stage in the future, and I hope that Elf, The Musical gets put into the rotation of holiday shows, henceforth.
ELF, THE MUSICAL runs through January 5th at the Marcus Center's Todd Wehr Theater, located at 929 N. Water Street in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Marcus Center Box Office at 929 N. Water Street, by phone at (414) 273-7206 or online at www.firststage.org.
Annual Grandparent Holiday Brunch
Sunday, December 15 at 11AM
Gather the grandparents, parents and children to enjoy a festive holiday brunch at the Bradley Pavilion at the Marcus Performing Arts Center, followed by a performance of Elf - The Musical at 1PM. Along with a delicious brunch, your family will enjoy a special visit from some of our cast, fun activities for the kids and more!
Space is limited! Reserve yours.
About First Stage
First Stage is one of the nation’s leading theaters for young people and families. First Stage touches hearts, engages minds and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences through professional theater productions that inspire, enlighten and entertain. Its Theater Academy, the nation’s largest high-impact theater training program for young people, fosters life skills through stage skills and serves nearly 2,000 students each year. As Wisconsin’s leader in arts-integrated education in schools, First Stage’s dynamic Theater in Education programs promote literacy, character building and experiential learning throughout the curriculum, serving over 20,000 students each year. First Stage was selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2012), and was the recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Eureka Award, recognizing creativity and innovation in business, education and the arts for its Next Steps program for students on the autism spectrum (2013, 2015). First Stage is a member of TYA/USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, Milwaukee Arts Partners and is a cornerstone member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF). www.firststage.org