ST. GEORGE — In the beloved 2003 Christmas movie “Elf,” the title character Buddy famously says, “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is by singing loud for all to hear.” Tuacahn Amphitheatre heard that call and has brought the delightfully infectious Buddy the elf to the indoor Hafen Theatre, spreading Christmas cheer and a whole lot of stage magic with “Elf The Musical.”
Based on the New Line Cinema film, “Elf The Musical” with book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, and music by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin is colorful, cacophonous and cooky, but also full of heart.
Similar to the film, “Elf The Musical” is the tale of a young orphan named Buddy who crawls into Santa’s bag one Christmas Eve and is raised by elves at the North Pole.
When Buddy discovers he is human, he is sent on a quest to New York City to find his birth father. Buddy’s quest becomes even bigger when he learns that his father is on the naughty list, his step-mom and half-brother don’t believe in Santa Claus and that New York is a very jaded city with little Christmas spirit.
Tuacahn’s production is chock-full of stage and silver screen talent including veteran actor Jim J. Bullock who plays Santa and Mr. Greenway.
As the narrator of the tale, Bullock is witty and caters to a mostly local audience with jokes about Utah sure to put a smile on most guests’ faces. Bullock plays a double role as the story’s antagonist, Mr. Greenway, and not only does he switch characters with all the aplomb befitting a thespian of his caliber, but he also changes costumes so fast in one scene he is almost certainly aided by a bit of Christmas magic.
As the production’s title character, Matt Owen (Buddy) is delightfully naive, completely obnoxious and incredibly lovable. His sheer joy on stage is infectious and truly does spread Christmas cheer.
Owen is complemented by a cast of leads who bring strong dance and vocal skills to the stage including Ricky Bulda (Macy’s store manager), David Engel (Walter Hobbs), Jennifer Swiderski (Emily Hobbs), Brendan Knox (Michael Hobbs), Cynthia Ferrer (Deb) and Jillian Gottlieb (Jovie). Gottlieb delivers a powerhouse solo in the second act that brings the house down.
Though each actor stands out on their own merits, it is through Swiderski and Knox that audiences will feel the most emotional impact.
Rounding out the cast is an incredibly versatile ensemble of adults and children who fill multiple roles and keep the energy levels high. A highlight of the show features the male ensemble cast along with Owen in a number titled “Nobody Cares About Santa.”
Tuacahn is well-known for its outdoor broadway-style shows and over-the-top theatrics that often include pyrotechnics, and though “Elf The Musical” is produced indoors, it is not lacking in production quality.
Directed by Peggy Hickey, the production is full of wonder. Most notably seen in its dazzlingly colorful costumes designed by Gregg Barnes, its creative choreography by Bill Burns and the brilliant use of projections designed by Hana Sooyeon Kim.
Adding the final touches to the joyful production is a live (but unseen) orchestra featuring several local professional musicians that make the musical very merry.
The show is billed as suitable for children ages 5 and up, but parents should be aware that there are some sexual innuendo and adult themes. Children 3 and under are not permitted.
“Elf The Musical” plays Monday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with matinees on Fridays and Saturdays at 2 p.m. until Dec. 21. Tickets start at $29 and vary by seating section. Tickets can be purchased online, by calling 800-746-9882 or 435-652-3300, or in person at the Tuacahn box office.
- What: “Elf The Musical.”
- When: Mondays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. until Dec. 21.
- Where: Indoor Hafen Theatre at Tuacahn, 1100 Tuacahn Drive, Ivins.
- Cost: Tickets start at $29 and vary by seating section.
- Purchase tickets: Online, by calling 800-746-9882 or 435-652-3300, or in person at the Tuacahn box office.
- Additional information: Children under 3 years old are not permitted.
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