Imagine an orphan baby crawling into Santa’s sack and growing up at the North Pole! That’s what happened to Buddy (Sebastian Arcelus), now a grown up who thinks he’s an elf.
Oh, all those wonderful years of candy canes, spaghetti and syrup breakfasts and enough sugar to have lost all his teeth. But now he’s taller than all his compatriot elf friends at the workshop and the man in red must tell him the truth. Off goes Buddy, leaving Christmastown, to walk thousands of miles, enduring truck driver obscenities in the Lincoln Tunnel, as he arrives in New York City in search of his real Dad, a grumpy children’s book publisher with an office in the Empire State Building.
Based on the 2003 Warner Bros. comedy film starring Will Ferrell, Buddy is reminiscent of Tom Hanks in “Big” with the same innocent, wide-eyed wonder of a child in a man’s body. The setting, however, is very hi-tech as Santa keeps records in an I-Pad.
Basically the songs by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin all have a formula that plays well to the tourist (and even locals) crowd with lots of holiday fervor and book writers Thomas Meehan (Hairspray, The Producers) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone) have inserted enough laugh lines to keep it all fluffy and upbeat. A little more, wouldn’t have hurt either!
Santa (a delightful George Wendt) makes sure to give Buddy some good advice about making sure he seeks out the Original Ray’s Pizza from the 30 that exist. Nor does Santa use reindeer “since I got that nasty letter from PETA.”
The scene of Buddy’s arrival to the Empire State Bldg. and the revolving door entry, triggers memories of Promises, Promises ‘Consolidated Life’ as people rush back and forth and in and out. Buddy’s reception from his Dad, Walter Hobbs, is less than warm.
Buddy is attracted to a female in Macy’s Santa Village, employee Jovie (Amy Spanger), as he endeavors to inspire the workers in a frolicsome fun-filled production number “Sparklejollytwinklejingley.”Macy’s Manager, Michael Mandell is a standout. As Jovie begins to believe in love, she is disillusioned in a bluesy torch song “Never Fall in Love.”
The grimacing Walter Hobbs, is played by Mark Jacoby to Beth Leavel’s Emily, as Mom. Their son Michael, is Matthew Gumley. Valerie Wright as secretary Deb, proves to be notable in song and dance.
Wonderful scenes include towering skyscrapers, sliding colorful side panel sets of Central Park, Macy’s interior and feel good projections of falling snow and winter and are all enhancing and heartwarming. David Rockwell (scenic design); Zachary Borovay (projection design); Natasha Katz (lighting design). The costumes by Gregg Barnes are colorful and delicious. The cast is artfully directed by Casey Nicholaw, Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominee for his work on The Drowsy Chaperone.
There’s not much to think about as Sebastian Arcelus’s clear toned voice and high-spirited performance give rise to the holidays of joy, hope, love and family and the large cast leaves the audience joyful and all smiles with “A Christmas Song.”
“elf” is great family entertainment for young and old and is currently ensconced at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on West 45th Street, NYC through December.