Elf to the rescue
By Paul Atreides
Author, playwright, and Theatre critic at EatMoreArtVegas.com
Are you looking for a holiday alternative to A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker? By the looks of it, people everywhere have been hankering for something different. Look no further. The beloved Elf is here to rescue you.
Full disclosure: I’m a Scrooge of the highest magnitude and never liked the movie. At all. If that put me on the Naughty List, so be it.
Yes, Virginia, the now-20-year-old film classic, is a stage musical. First presented on Broadway in 2010, it now plays annually all over the world, and Las Vegas Little Theatre (LVLT) has grabbed it for its 2023 December production. Elf The Musical, a book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, music by Matthew Sklar, and lyrics by Chad Beguelin, is based on the New Line Cinema film written by David Berenbaum.
What a production!
There are a lot of changes from film to stage. But the only iconic scene you might truly notice missing—rewritten for the stage for some unknown reason—is the fight between Buddy and Miles (played in the film by Will Ferrel and Peter Dinklage, respectively). In fact, Miles's character has been completely cut.
Using a wonderful set designed by Chris Davies combined with beautiful projections by Nick Wass, the play moves from the North Pole to New York City. As staged by co-directors Walter Niejadlik and Chris Davies, the opening musical number is a hoot, and the first scene transition is glorious. Julie Horton’s costumes, combined with choreography by Hallie Lyons and April Sauline, add to the laughs.
Stephen Rinck as Santa Claus opens the show. His portrayal throughout is disparaging and funny.
Michael Kaczurak brings Buddy to life with all the child-like wonder you’d expect and, to his great credit, makes the role his own by not delivering a Ferrel imitation. Kaczurak’s timing is spot on from start to finish, and his breath control on some songs is an awe-inspiring wonder.
Playing Jovie, Buddy’s girlfriend, April Sauline is in fine form, particularly her belting vocal on “Never Fall in Love (with an elf).”
With the exception of Buddy, the script doesn’t provide smooth character transitions. Working with what he’s got script-wise, Glenn Heath, as Walter Hobbs, does a nice job delivering the over-worked, angry, and filled-with-Christmas-spirit dad. How else is Santa’s sleigh to regain its magic?
The large ensemble does a credible job supporting the whole as they change from elves to office workers to people on the street. The standout here is Jax Bigelow. He sits on a store Santa’s lap to ask for a violent video game, delivers the quintessential spoiled rotten kid, and gets the deserved response of oohs and laughs.
I begrudgingly went to the show, and a miracle happened on Schiff Drive. A production of this magnitude is an enormous undertaking. Ultimately, LVLT provides a delightful, entertaining, family-friendly alternative for the season. That may take me off the Naughty List.
During the SRO opening night, Lebutt indicated that all Sundays are sold out. Tickets for added performances are selling fast. I suggest you get yours before they’re gone.
Postscript: It’s a giving time of year, and local theatre can use your help. I’m sure an actor will get their wings somewhere with every donation you make.
What: Elf The Musical
When: 8 p.m. Friday - Saturday; 2 p.m. Sundays through Dec 17
2 p.m. Saturday, Dec 2, Dec 9
Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre - Mainstage, 3920 Schiff Drive
Grade: ***** Delicious
Producer: Las Vegas Little Theatre; Director: Chris Davies, Walter Niejadlik; Music Director: Toby McEvoy; Choreography: Hallie Lyons, April Sauline; Set Design: Chris Davies; Lighting Design: Ginny Adams; Costumes: Julie Horton; Stage Crew Chief: Dave Elliot