‘Elf, The Musical’ brings Christmas spirit to Syracuse

‘Elf, The Musical’ brings Christmas spirit to Syracuse Stage

Review: Fueled by a high energy cast and elaborate set, Syracuse Stage and the SU Department of Drama put on a rousing spectacle.
Published: December 4, 2018
Elf on stage

In the words of Buddy the Elf: “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

Syracuse Stage took that advice. The theatre teamed up with Syracuse University’s Department of Drama to produce Elf, the Musical last weekend, an adaptation of the 2003 Christmas fantasy comedy film made famous by comedian Will Ferrell and an ill-fitting pair of yellow tights.

Hollywood filmmakers and the playwrights of Broadway have long borrowed from each other — but more recently, comedies are getting the musical treatment for the stage. Take Tina Fey’s Mean Girls, which rang in more than $1 million in its first week in the Broadway box office last year.

Elf, the Musical stays true to the plot of the beloved original film. Buddy, a gullible 30-year-old man who works at the North Pole in Santa’s workshop, goes on a journey of self-discovery after realizing he is not in fact an elf, but rather a human with a father he has never met. Hijinks ensue as Buddy travels to New York City to unite with his father, teaching everyone he encounters along the way a valuable lesson about the meaning of Christmas.

But Syracuse Stage elevates this production from what could have been a lukewarm retelling to a vibrant theatrical experience, with elaborate set design and unexpected audience interactions.

The play’s director, Donna Drake, who made her debut at the Syracuse Stage last season with The Wizard of Oz, returns with an eye for spectacle. Drake’s direction can best be described as ornamented playfulness. There is a spry energy that drives the show, most notably felt when Buddy, played by a 6-foot-4 Chris Stevens, leaps off the stage and into the audience to run through the aisles. In another scene, Buddy pelts snow he’s crafted out of shredded paper into the front row, and the grand finale offers a similar surprise that need not be spoiled here.

Elf does not simply break the fourth wall, it nearly shatters it. The show’s playful interaction with the audience brings the story to a level that the cinematic predecessor could not. 

Like the sleigh that Santa rides in the play (a high-tech model powered not by reindeer but by Christmas spirit) the story seems to be activated by the vibrant energy in the room. The laughs, cheers and applause that follow moments of interaction with the audience ignite the cast and fill the room with a sensation that can only be described as jolly.

Elf the Musical is on sale now. It is running from now until Jan. 6, 2019. 

 

Elf on stage
Aloysius Gigl, Chris Stevens, Seth Pagliaroli, and Allison Mickelson in Syracuse Stage's production of "Elf The Musical."
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Arts Journalism 2018-19. Feminist Film Critic.