Fort Worth — The tour of Elf, the Musical is in North Texas for the first time, and the Broadway adaptation is just as much fun as the 2003 movie with Will Ferrell on which it is based. The story follows the adventurous life of a youthful and sweet‐hearted man named Buddy, who grew up on the North Pole as an elf working for Santa Claus. All is well at the snowy workshop until Santa sits Buddy down to tell him that he is his adoptive father and that Buddy is really a human. Buddy, who is much taller than the other elves, is alarmed by the news and sets out on an adventure to New York City to find his true identity.
The Broadway version, with music and lyrics by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin and a book by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan, premiered in New York in 2010 to an incredible audience reception and began touring in 2012. The current stop is presented by Performing Arts Fort Worth at Bass Performance Hall (it’s a non-Equity tour). We spoke to Texas native Marie Lemon, an ensemble member and understudy to Emily.
TheaterJones: Elf, the Musical is an adaptation of the popular movie starring Will Ferrell. How does the story parallel the movie? Is it a loose or close adaptation?
Marie Lemon: What they did was take all of the greatest moments from the movie and adapted it for the stage with flashy dance numbers, catchy music, and incredible spectacle. It is a pretty close adaptation and really holds the spirit and heart of the film.
How many cities are you hitting and in what time frame? What has been the overall reception for the show four years after its premiere on Broadway?
We are hitting 14 cities total from beginning of November to end of December so it has been an exciting and wild ride! We are selling out in almost every city; we are the “West Coast” tour.
I notice you began your acting career in Austin. How long have you been in New York and how do you feel about touring through your home state?
Yes! I grew up in Austin although I received my BFA in musical theatre from Millikin University in Illinois. I have been living in New York, actually Washington Heights, for about three years and work at a restaurant when I am not touring or working on an extended run of a show. I am so excited to be doing the show here in Fort Worth and then next week the show will be in my hometown of Austin. I have a ton of my family and friends here in the area that are coming to the show and then of course in Austin. It is a dream-come-true!
One of the differences in the musical from the film is that there is a subplot of his little brother Michael not believing in Santa. Why do you believe this was added and how does it affect the main story arc or drive of the protagonist?
Well yes, his brother has been living with his Mom in New York and doesn’t have faith in Santa Claus so this drives part of the conflict that Buddy has to overcome. In addition, Santa Claus flies in the musical and when seeing this it restores everyone’s faith in the mystery of the Christmas season.
Why do you think this story might be so popular with audiences in comparison to other holiday stories?
I think because Buddy is so pure of heart and even though he is 30, he sees everything through the eyes of a child, so his character overall inspires that faith and spirit in everyone around him. Plus there is so much comedy and joy in the story itself.