Elf: Review Roundup

Jordan Gelber and
Wayne Knight

The Broadway return of Elf, the 2010 musical based on the 2003 film written by David Berenbaum, has received mostly positive reviews. This revival features a revised book and a new opening number, “Happy All the Time.” The creative team includes Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin (book), Chad Beguelin (lyrics), Matthew Sklar (music), Casey Nicholaw (direction, choreography), Doug Besterman (orchestrations), Phil Reno (music direction), David Rockwell (sets), Gregg Barnes (costumes), Natasha Katz (lights), Peter Hylenski (sound), Zachary Borovay (projections), and Josh Marquette (hair). The cast includes Jordan Gelber (Buddy), Leslie Kritzer (Jovie), Mark Jacoby (Walter Hobbs), Adam Heller (Mr. Greenway), Michael Mandell (Macy’s Manager), Valerie Wright (Deb), Mitchell Sink (Michael), Jason Eric Testa (Little Boy), Beth Leavel (Emily) and Wayne Knight (Santa).

Suzy Evans (Back Stage): There is so much to love about the movie Elf. Fortunately, many of those same charms grace the stage in the returning holiday musical. … One major factor is missing from the production, however, and it’s really no one’s fault that it’s gone. … It is completely unfair to compare actor Jordan Gelber to Ferrell. … Gelber takes a while to warm up to his approach, though he is endearing by the show’s conclusion. The most jarring lack in the performance is his singing. … The best number in the show is a scene that doesn’t come from the film. A group of put-upon, soon-to-be-out-of-work mall Santas sing a hilarious number in a Chinatown restaurant, bemoaning how nobody cares about or believes in the big man anymore.

Neil Genzlinger (N.Y. Times): In the remounted Broadway show … Jordan Gelber, one of several new cast members, draws the thankless job of trying to make fans of the movie forget Mr. Ferrell. He and the director, Casey Nicholaw, never quite find a comfort zone for the character the way that Mr. Ferrell did. …. But the show does have just enough nice supporting performances and successful comic moments to amuse easily amused kiddies and leave grown-up ticket buyers grumbling no more loudly than they would after any of the other holiday shows. … Although no new holiday standards are likely to emerge from this show, a couple of the musical numbers do have a respectable zing. … The second act opens with a funny number called “Nobody Cares About Santa” featuring a bunch of grousing department-store Clauses who have gathered for a bite to eat in a Chinese restaurant.

Tanner Stransky (Entertainment Weekly): In two years at the North Pole, Buddy the Elf & Co. haven’t changed much. The show opens with a new musical number, but most of the changes involve casting. … The biggest difference involve the leads: Jordan Gelber creates a softer, more childlike Buddy at the center of the show, while Leslie Kritzer is more pensive and understated as love interest Jovie, a role that still never quite gets its due. Still, it’s the wonderful supporting cast that steals the show. … Elf won’t change your life, but it will brighten your holiday season a little bit. This line is repeated in the show over and over and over: ‘‘The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.’’ Mission (still) accomplished. B+

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