It’s easy enough to sit through the Broadway production of “Elf” and feel yourself transforming into Scrooge. That, however, would mistakenly suggest it is easy to sit through “Elf.”
]]>Will Ferrell movie, is about a guy who thinks he’s an elf, but is actually human. Buddy (Sebastian Arcelus, “Jersey Boys,” “Wicked”) is not as fast as the others in making toys, or in much else. Then, one day, Buddy overhears two elves talking and discovers the truth. “I can’t believe you didn’t see this coming,” Santa tells Buddy, “You’re 6’2″ and I have to order your tights on Amazon.” Santa urges Buddy to visit his dad, who works in the Empire State Building. Buddy asks what New York is like, and the sage advice Santa dispenses is, “There are like 30 Rays Pizza and they all say they are the original. It’s on 6th Avenue and 11th Street.” Well Santa’s got that right. Buddy pretty much defines earnest, and he sings and dances earnestly. It’s best to not ponder the choreography too much. Santa, by the way, is George Wendt (Norm, of “Cheers” fame) and is the smartest person in the production — he’s barely on stage. When he is, he’s fine. Wendt sings a little, reminds the audience in a clever enough way to turn off their cell phones and open their candy at the beginning of the show. It’s wonderful when a seasonal show lures in audience members who would not normally go to the theater. Like the woman behind us who screamed “Norm” whenever Wendt entered and the man in front of us who texted throughout the show until an usher threatened him with expulsion. The good news for Broadway is that once people go, they discover the wonders of Broadway. Unfortunately, in “Elf” there’s not a lot worth discovering. Some performances manage to shine regardless of the material, and Beth Leavel, Mark Jacoby and Matthew Gumley as Emily, Walter and Michael Hobbs, Buddy’s new family, are excellent. So is Mr. Hobbs’ beleaguered assistant, Deb (Valerie Wright). The show comes alive during “Nobody Cares About Santa,” when a bunch of ragtag Santas commiserate over song and dance at a Chinese restaurant. There are a few good lines, scattered here and there, yet since this is intended for kids, was it absolutely necessary to include “screw it” “b****y” and “dumba**”? Just when you think it can’t possibly get any sappier, it does. But even when we don’t like a production, and this qualifies, we’re not ones to spoil the ending. As always, with whom you see something makes a big difference. Luckily, we saw this with our 8-year-old niece who dutifully oohed and ahhed. But even the best she could muster for her second-ever Broadway show was, “It was nice.” Just because something is dressed up in candy cane stripes and features a fat guy in a red Santa suit doesn’t automatically make it an instant feel-good Christmas classic. Considering this could be trotted out annually, it’s best to add to your Christmas wish list now that “Elf” stays in the North Pole.