The Lowry, Manchester – until 14th January 2018. Reviewed by Julie Noller 5*****
Elf is known to most of us as a much watched 2003 Christmas film, it’s heart warming and funny and true family viewing. How would Elf the musical compare?
In a nutshell it smacks it in the face with a snowball, it’s slick, warm, humorous and nobody left that packed performance without a smile on their face – regardless of age. Although I wonder if there’s a few of the younger members of the audience this morning asking for one of the five main food groups for breakfast – namely sugar although, as Buddy said, all Elves visit the dentist twice a day. Thank you to Michael Rose for producing and bringing Elf – a story written by award winners Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin – to the stage with a UK based cast.
This was a big night for The Lowry, a press and a Charity Gala with lots of famous faces, we were greeted on the red carpet by choir singers and inside by a band, Christmas music got us in the mood and we were exclusive holders of Elf wristbands. On entering the auditorium we could see that every seat had a Souvenir Brochure attached, they are fabulous and have some great glossy photographs included. There was a buzz around the audience most of whom were wearing some sort of Christmas attire, it wasn’t compulsory but surely on the lead up to Christmas, Elf deserves a bit of glitter. I would say that social media was alive last night with Elfie Selfies – when the safety curtain went up, the bright colours of the Elf logo could be seen along with many flashing lights from phones.
The performance begins with a voice over, turn to the person on your left and ask ‘do you need a hug’ you know this is not the last time you’ll hear this phrase. Santa (Louis Emerick) is the first character on stage, the stage is brightly lit and the set design is almost pantomime in that it is over sized and welcoming. The backdrop up on stage is computerised screen images, some cartoonesque but all bright and cheery, this allows some fast paced action such as Buddy’s trip to New York and Santa’s troubles in Central Park. Elf starts with humour, Santa is jolly and friendly telling us all how annoying mobile phones and rustling sweetie wrappers can be. Who doesn’t listen to Santa? I’m sure we all dread, regardless of age, being placed on the naughty list.
Elf plays with our minds in a way that makes us question does everything need to be so politically correct? We have Elves played by a cast of dancers all on their knees which is strangely humourous, children laughed and rightly so at simply how silly they looked allowing the adults to follow suit and relax. Santa also brings up the fact Buddy loves his hugs by reminding him in todays society not everyone likes to hug.
Elf is simply wonderful the orchestra conducted by Jeremy Wootton is supurb. From my seat I could see Jeremy at work, a memorable moment was seeing the Narwhale pop up from the Orchestra. The score and lyrics by Mathew Sklar and Chad Beguelin are delivered with perfection. I’m hoping for a CD in my Christmas stocking this year. The cast is full of many well known faces and not just Louis Emerick who many will remember from Brookside. Ben Forster is Elftastic as Buddy after winning fame in 2012 during the TV show Superstar. He is Buddy through and through, his facial features and exaggerated movements are so warm and childlike, you fall in love with him the very first moment he arrives on stage in Santa’s workshop. He reminds us that Christmas is full of wonder and awe. It’s okay to find your inner child, all you have to do is believe. Liz McClarnon brings goosebumps with her solo singing reminding us of her Atomic Kitten days, in her role as Jovie, troubled and seeking love in her life – dare she allow Buddy into her life. Joe McGann as Walter Hobbs is very stately, work obsessed, lost his way within his family. Jessica Martin as Emily Hobbs I have to simply say fantastic hair that is worthy of Hairspray. After debating with my teens over characters, Debs is my favourite, for one scene and one line, when Buddy asks her if she wants a monster hot chocolate she shouts the immortal line ‘screw weight watchers’ I’m now a little bit in love with her and her slightly naughty ways of dancing. For Deb is obviously a little bit of a cougar.
Lochlan White I’m in awe of, at the age of eleven to get up on stage and sing his heart out. Well I’m sure there’s were a few tears of pride shed over a wonderful performance.
Elf is on tour next Christmas, if you haven’t got a ticket yet for The Lowry then take a look at December 2018. There are so many lines I would love to quote, starting with wishing you all a sparklejollytwinklejingley Christmas. Elf should be in everyone’s calendar, it’s wonderful, it’s a modern musical with old school style, there’s humour, singing and dancing. Characters that reach out to us, speak to our heart. Welcome to the new Christmas tradition – Elf the Musical, I don’t think anyone could leave without a good old dose of Christmas Spirit. Lets not forget Santa’s flying sleigh that was just magical along with the accompanying light show. I was left feeling a little disappointed it wasn’t snowing….. but wait it actually snowed inside the theatre. My life was complete. I felt warm and fuzzy and my teens had great big smiles on their faces. Thank You Elf for bringing us Christmas ‘ Think of the joy you’ll bring if you just close your eyes and sing’ . Buddy has taught us all to search out our inner Elf. Merry Elfmass to you all.