"Full of seasonal good cheer"
-Daily Mail-

"Genuinely charming"
-The Stage-

"Will woo even the most bah humbug of audience members"

Sorry, Elf! the Musical closed on 02 Jan 2016

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All the Christmas magic you could ever wish for

Critic Rating

28 October 2015, Dominion Theatre
Guest Reviewer Guest Reviewer
There’s something a little perverse about a show as intrinsically Christmassy as Elf the Musical opening on Bonfire Night, but with a limited run finishing sharply on 2nd January, the time to get festive starts now. Based on the 2003 film starring Will Ferrell and directed by Jon Favreau, the musical capitalises on the feel-good charm of the movie to create something deliciously old-school in feel but with a definite contemporary spin on things.

Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin’s book sticks relatively closely to David Berenbaum’s film in telling the story of Buddy, one of Santa’s elves who is just a bit taller than the rest of them. When the truth that he is in fact a human is finally broken to him, he heads off to New York to meet his biological father, but the Christmas cheer that is so important to working in the North Pole is sadly lacking in a cynical Manhattan that has forgotten how to believe in Father Christmas.

So far so cheesy, but the wonder of Morgan Young’s production is that it manages to bypass the schmaltz for something more engaging and heartfelt. Ben Forster’s Buddy radiates naïve earnestness; from the opening moments where he tries to fit into a world where he’s too big, to the later scenes where the world has become too big for him. His ebullient spirit and acutely observed comic timing carries the weight of the show effortlessly, partnered by a strong Kimberley Walsh as the sceptical Jovie, his love interest.

It helps that he has a magnificent booming voice, perfectly suited to Matthew Sklar’s classic-sounding score which captures much of the sound of the Great American Songbook as played with bright, brassy confidence by Stuart Morley’s orchestra. It’s a canny choice which just adds to Elf’s universal charm, allowing the company to break out into full company song and dance routines at the drop of a candy cane.  Young also choreographs with a keen eye for retro stylings, filling the stage with utter joy.

Though there’s nothing ostensibly complex about the story, there’s something salutary in the joy it finds in creating a blended family – Joe McGann’s grouchy Walter, Jessica Marrtin’s kindly Emily and young Michael (Ilan Galkoff at this performance) work together beautifully with the latter two’s ‘I’ll Believe In You’, one of the show’s sweetest moments. The subtle incorporation of same-sex dancing pairs in the ensemble locates us in an appropriately modern and metropolitan mind-set.

Not everything is quite so successful. Replacing Papa Elf with Santa as the narrator is a slightly disarming change which doesn’t work here. Chad Beguelin’s lyrics strain for dubious rhyme a little too often and the use of video backdrop is slick but soulless. However, Tim Goodchild’s production design really comes into its own once we’re installed in New York, and the climax of the show has all the Christmas magic you could ever wish for - along with a killer tune you’ll be humming for days. There’s no question that it is a very expensive show, especially for the family market, but that shouldn’t detract from the excellent work of the cast and creatives here.

Reviewed by Ian Foster

Fiona Mountford
Call me a cotton-headed ninny-muggins, to borrow the show’s most appealing phrase, but I wasn’t counting down the hours until I could see former Girls Aloud star Kimberley Walsh as Buddy’s love interest Jovie. I should have been, though, as Walsh is a delight in her too-few scenes, tuneful and engaging. Overall, Elf left this Grinch-inclined critic with expectations pleasantly confounded, and full of seasonal good cheer.

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Mark Shenton
This Christmas musical attraction has already gained notoriety for setting a new record for a top West End price of £240 a ticket. But if that reeks of greed, the show itself exudes far less cynical motives, and is in fact an amiable, good-natured seasonal show, which reconnects audiences with Father Christmas.

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Daisy Bowie-Sell
Fans of the film will tell you Ferrell's Buddy was an absolute hoot. Here, Ben Forster is the show's saving grace. Kooky, gawky, excitable and enthusiastic, Forster taps into a similar off-beat humour that Ferrell did. He delivers the jokes for the adults with a dead-pan innocence (‘I'd love to put you on top of my Christmas tree!') and he can certainly sing. His was the voice that won Andrew Lloyd Webber's Superstar, the TV search for that other Christmas icon, Jesus. But it's the comedy that he excels at here, and which will woo even the most bah humbug of audience members.

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