by Erica Millwater
While Buddy the Elf’s favorite hobby may be smiling, it was the audience who couldn’t stop grinning at Paper Mill Playhouse’s production of Elf. Buddy, the human elf, is taking the stage Nov. 26–Jan. 4, spreading lots of Christmas cheer for children and adults alike.
This $220 million grossing film was produced in 2003, according to imbd.com, and the theatrical version largely sticks to the movie’s details. The cast and crew capture the essence of this fantasy land marvelously. The set for Santa’s workshop is whimsical, colorful and even equipped with a flying sleigh. The makeup, costumes and even the inflections of the ensemble’s voices make them convincing elves, particularly as they around on their knees for the entire show.
However, in several ways, the play makes subtle changes that take away from the feeling of warmth and tradition that comes with Christmas. The musical attempts to commit itself to the twenty-first century; Santa has an iPad of wish lists rather than a classic book, and he cautions audience members in the beginning of the show to turn off their phones in order to avoid landing on the naughty list.
In addition, the show would have benefited from clearly appealing either to children or adults instead of unsuccessfully trying to do both. The musical jumps from syrup on spaghetti to sexual innuendos. The jokes were funny, but unnecessary. As a result, the authenticity and innocence of the beloved plot was lost.
For children and adults alike, the movie is a favorite and has earned its place as a Christmas classic. The parts of the musical that adhere to this tradition prove to be far more successful than the modernization and maturation of some scenes. The show is sweet, but needs a bit more sugary syrup to capture the audience’s heart.