You’ll get a sugar high from musical ‘Elf’ at St. Paul’s Ordway

December 11, 2018 GMT

Youre likely to get a sugar high from Elf: The Musical.

The relentlessly cheerful holiday show, back at Ordway Center through Dec. 30, feels like a day spent at the amusement park geeking out on fizzy drinks and cotton candy while singing Happy All the Time.

Then again, what kid doesnt like sweets in this season when adults, too, are getting a bit into their nog?

The stage adaptation of Will Ferrells 2003 comedy first played the St. Paul venue in 2012. If this edition of director Sam Scalamonis entertaining touring show is different, its in degrees. The energy level is even more amped up. And there is some localized banter about the Vikings and other Minnesota touchstones.


No one will accuse this cheerful staging and its peppy dances by choreographer Connor Gallagher of not trying hard enough.

Narrated by Santa (nice-and-naughty Ken Clement), Elf is an Etch A Sketch story about a misfit who finds out that he really doesnt belong.

When he was a toddler, Buddy (Sam Hartley) hid out in Santas bag and was taken to the North Pole, where he grew up in Santas workshop alongside the worker elves. Now 30, but still a kid at heart, he finds out hes human, and journeys to New York to find his biological father: overworked professional Walter (fussy Joel Stigliano), who now has a wife (poised Marie Lemon) and son (played by the terrific Isaac Leer at Sundays matinee).

Buddys whole existence is predicated on making people believe in Santa, the real one that he knows, and catch the Christmas spirit. That includes a woman he falls for Jovie (McKenzie Lesser-Roy), who is not really into Christmas. Good luck with that.

Conductor Sean Camerons orchestra is bright and boisterous as it delivers Matthew Sklars razzmatazz score and Chad Beguelins droll lyrics. (The book is by Thomas Meehan, who also wrote Annie and Hairspray, and Bob Martin.) Its clear that the creative team loves classic movie musicals, as there are nods to Singin in the Rain and Mary Poppins, whose Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious has a counterpart here in Sparklejollytwinklejingley.

The orchestra, and cast, nail songs such as The Story of Buddy the Elf and Worlds Greatest Dad. The company puts a lot of personality into their characters. Hartley invests Buddy with enough innocence to make you feel that he really believes in Santa, even though hes a bit overgrown for that. His charisma wins the day. And Lesser-Roy invests her big number, Never Fall in Love (with an elf, that is), with wit and charm.

All that good music and dance gives you a happy feeling as you leave the theater, though all too soon, youll come crashing down from the sugar rush.

rpreston@startribune.com 612-673-4390 Twitter: @rohanpreston