What can be better than spending New Year's Eve at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami with 8 Santas? And when was the last time you watched elves, a week after Christmas, or any other time for that matter, singing and dancing for you? Add a 'Once Upon A Time' tale told by THE Santa about an elf Buddy who doesn't realize he is human. Now put many kids in the audience seeing a live musical for the first time and you, an adult, will become a kid again.
"Elf" follows two major story lines with the first being about Buddy finding out he is human and going to New York to meet his real father discovering he also has a stepmother and a brother. We follow his adventures as a 'fish out of water', dressed in his elf clothes, discovering New York city and New Yorkers.
The other story revolves around how many people in the area don't believe in Santa anymore. As Santa explains he leaves Vermont and drops into a black hole of the tri-State area. This is a modern Santa with his reindeer being retired after a PETA movement accuses him of cruelty to animals. His sled, with all the gifts for children around the world, now needs the belief and love of people to get, and keep, his sleigh up in the air. By the way Santa now has an Ipad to keep him up to date with who was naughty and who was nice.
With a book by Thomas and Bob Martin, plus music and lyrics by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, we watch Buddy fall in love, his father turn from a man to hasn't time for his family man turn into the father he and his brother, Michael, want not to mention his stepmother getting the husband she knows is still in the man she married.
Jane Bruce and Tyler Altomari, as mother and son, have two duets, one including "There is a Santa Claus", selling them as only professionals can do. Matthew Alan Smith does a smooth transition from the too busy father/husband to the caring man he really is and his family wants.
Kate Hennies plays Buddy's love interest Jovie, who has become a cynical New Yorker after moving there. Her voice soars filling every nook and cranny of the theatre especially in her big number "Never Fall In Love". The ensemble, and the rest of the supporting cast, are in top form adding to all the scenes.
Santa, played by Gordon Gray, does what he can with the material he is handed, not getting enough time on stage but you just know the kids in the audience believe in him.
The star of the show is Matt Kopec as Buddy. He sings, dances, acts, ice skates and uses his elastic body to get in all shapes that seem impossible. He was like a young Ray Bolger, for those of you old enough to remember him! He does his hardest to make us believe in him, Santa and the show.
Talking about ice skating the production does have a scene of Buddy, Jovie and New Yorkers ice skating in the Rockefeller Center rink, which the director Sam Scalamont and choreographer Connor Gallagher should have made more of a center piece in the second act. The sets and costumes all had the holiday feeling.
Don't know if it is always done but the production provided 'snow' falling in the lobby during intermission which thrilled the kids and quite a few of their parents and grandparents.
"Elf" is a holiday show that will probably be revived every December and though it might not have memorable songs and has a book that should be cut to make the whole show move faster it is a fun time to get and keep the holiday spirit, not to mention to make you believe in Santa Claus.
1st act: 1 hour and 15 minutes Intermission: 20 minutes 2nd act: 45 minutes
Next week Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Wizard Of Oz" based on the movie version--at the Broward Performing Arts Center in Fort Lauderdale.
On February 4th the big Broadway hit "Once" will open at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami.
PHOTOS OF PRODUCTION BY JOAN MARCUS PROVIDED TO WRITER BY PR AND MARKETING MANAGER CHARLOTTE VERMAAK AND FLORIDA PRESS REPRESENTATIVE CHARLIE CINNAMON