‘Elf the Musical’ at PTC Happily Kicks off Holiday Season – The Daily Utah Chronicle


Max Chernin as Buddy the Elf in “Elf the Musical”. (Courtesy of BW Productions)

The line between the Christmas season and the rest of the year gets thinner and thinner over time. I find myself looking for excuses to play Christmas music in October and, before I know it, the stockings are up and the tree is pruned.

While I am confident that I am not the only one to start the holiday season prematurely, I no longer need to be anxious or worried. It’s true, the socially acceptable time to prepare for Christmas is upon us!

What better way to celebrate this most magical moment than by witnessing a musical version of a beloved Christmas movie classic? Santa Claus arrived early this year in the form of Pioneer Theater Company’s “Elf the Musical” and this lucky duck got to see it on opening night.

Christmas is here!

Christmas cheer was clearly in the air as we piled into the Pioneer Memorial Theater. Friends, families and ugly Christmas sweaters were around every corner as we settled into our seats, the scene glistening with swirling blue snowflakes and the lively sound of brass and woodwinds anxious to leave.

Before we knew it, Santa Claus entered from the left of the stage and greeted the crowd with a round of applause. The merry old man was there to tell us a familiar story, that of Buddy the Elf.

Soon the stage was full of jumping elves wearing fake beards and dazzling costumes. Everyone in the audience tapped their feet on the rebounding score of Matthieu skylar, which accentuated the eccentric and obsessed Christmas antics of our musical protagonist, Buddy (Max Chernin).

Max Chernin as Buddy the Elf in “Elf the Musical”. (Courtesy of Pioneertheatre.org)

A simple message

The musical narrative, while easy to follow, quickly overwhelms trying to bring in the same simple storybook magic present in the source material. The writing is sometimes witty, but it often falls flat and leads to characters without much substance.

A similar sentiment is shared by the music numbers. Outwardly they are cheerful and fun, but they do little to engage audiences and create a compelling story. In a creative trifecta, the performances, while the talent was undeniable, seemed too repetitive and lacked a certain gravity that the set and costume design supported.

Yet at the heart of “Elf the Musical” is a message of the spirit of Christmas – a message that declares that the magic of Christmas does not come from what surrounds us, but from what is in our hearts. Yes, there are aspects of the musical that might require a bit of polishing, but that message rings true throughout the production’s performance.

I constantly remembered my love for Christmas, the snowball battles and my family. This same love was also evident in those around me. The children laughed, the couples held hands and all the participants smiled.

For me, “Elf the Musical” was an absolute success. It creates an easy, fun night out screaming loud and clear from the rooftops that Christmas is indeed here. Chances are it won’t blow you away, but like the ever-lovable Elf Buddy, he’ll do whatever he can to put you in the Christmas spirit.

“Elf the Musical” runs at PTC through December 18th.

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