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"Elf" on Broadway at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre
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"Elf" on Broadway at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

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Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures, Inc.
In assoc. with Unique Features

(Elf on Broadway Website)

At the
Al Hirschfeld Theatre
302 West 45th Street

Book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin
Lyrics by Chad Beguelin
Music by Matthew Sklar
Directed and Choreographed by Casey Nicholaw

Sebastian Arcelus
Amy Spanger
Mark Jacoby
Michael Mandel
Michael McCormick
Valerie Wright
Matthew Gumley
Matthew Schecter

Also Starring:
Beth Leavel
George Wendt as Santa

And an Ensemble of Dancers/Singers/Actors

Music Director and Vocal Arrangements: Phil Reno
Scenic Design: David Rockwell
Lighting Design: Natasha Katz
Costume Design: Gregg Barnes
Sound Design: Peter Hylenski
Orchestrations: Doug Besterman
Production Stage Manager: Karen Moore
Casting: Telsey + Co.
Associate Producer: Jenny Gersten
Press: The Hartman Group
Marketing: aka
Hair Design: Josh Marquette
Dance Arrangements: David Chase
Assoc. Director: Casey Hushion
Music Coordinator: John Miller
Technical Supervisor: Chris Smith/Smitty
Exec. Producer: Mark Kaufman
General Manager: Charlotte Wilcox Co.

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 13, 2010

In the company of my seven year-old niece, the new Broadway musical Elf, a take-off on the Will Ferrell film, with Sebastian Arcelus in the lead as Buddy the Elf, adopted by Santa’s elves and raised at the North Pole, was a joy. When Buddy grows up tall, human that he is, he travels to New York City, where he’s been told his true father lives and works. Buddy arrives just in time for Christmas, in full elfin regalia, pointed hat, curled boots, striped stockings, and instantly he’s razzed, but he safely makes his way through crazy traffic to the giant book publishing house for children’s literature. Buddy’s real father (Mark Jacoby), the company boss, discovers his family is about to expand, and no amount of resistance will keep Buddy from bonding with big hugs, smiles, and song. Buddy was actually fathered by Hobbs years ago in his wilder days, and his wife, Emily (Beth Leavel), and son, Michael (Matthew Gumley), find Buddy engaging and endearing.

Also in the lead in today’s two-act Holiday fiesta are George Wendt, as Santa, and Nancy Johnston, as Mrs. Claus. I found Mr. Wendt’s mirthful, natural performance to be among the best in the show, as his jokes and audience asides were artfully geared to the adults in the crowd. Mr. Wendt is known for his role in “Cheers”, and cheerful and bubbly he was. Elf, especially at matinee time, as this was, is not a show for cynical critique, with kids wide- eyed, glued to the stage, with multitudinous projections of candy canes and bright Christmas mementos riveting them in wonder. My niece was squealing with delight, when the publishing house crowd got into the fray, dancing like urban elf sophisticates, not to mention the toys and workers at Macy’s, plus a second faux Santa there, to multiply the fun. NY Policemen, a Macy’s Manager, and a chorus of Santas brought the house down, with kids’ (and many adults’) energized laughter. If the producers intended a show for publicity in the park and playgrounds, this was it.

Mr. Arcelus has a childlike, bouncy demeanor, and his voice was strong and tuneful. He was often over-the-top, but, after all, this was a cartoonish show, in the best sense of the genre, and the stage in gestalt was a huge Holiday window come to life. The youthful Matthew Gumley was adorable and charismatic, never grandstanding, always in the role. Amy Spanger, as Jovie, Buddy’s budding love interest, was superbly cast as the working girl who falls for the Elf. The happy ending of course brings them out with an elfin baby carriage, as Buddy had finally learned what a kiss is. Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin’s book is creative, clever, and charming. The many songs, by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, might not stay in the head for a week, but “I’ll Believe in You”, “Nobody Cares About Santa”, and “A Christmas Song” were sung in reprise to rhythmically rollicking kids. Casey Nicholaw directed for families, tourists, and even jaded theatregoers, with wry humor that wowed the crowd. Sets, costumes, and hair design added to the Holiday window motif, with simplicity, color, and glitter. Kudos to the cast.

Sebastian Arcelus as Buddy
and the Cast of "ELF".
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Sebastian Arcelus as Buddy,
Mark Jacoby as Walter,
George Wendt as Santa,
in "ELF".
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Beth Leavel as Emily,
Matthew Gumley as Michael,
in "ELF".
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Emily Hsu as Charlotte Dennon,
Sebastian Arcelus as Buddy,
in "ELF".
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at