Dallas — The holidays are a time to forego healthy eating, allow a little more calories into our lives, and encourage over-the-top entertainment traditions with glee. The sugary-sweet tour of Elf the Musical fits in perfectly with the most wonderful time of year, as its shimmering sets, dazzling colors, and never-ending energy fills the Music Hall at Fair Park with holiday cheer. Presented by Dallas Summer Musicals, it’s in town for a short time only.
The book by Thomas Meehan is based on the 2003 film starring Will Ferrell. Sam Scalamoni directs, and Connor Gallagher provides sprightly choreography. Heartwarming songs by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin delightfully complement the cheerful story.
The production follows the same narrative structure as the film. Buddy the Elf (Eric Williams) finds out that there’s a reason he towers over the other elves at the North Pole. Despite the overly buoyant demeanor that he shares with the other elves, he’s actually human. Santa (Mark Fishback) permits him to seek after his father, Walter Hobbs (John Adkison), even though dear old dad is on the “naughty list.”
Although New York City proves a much harsher reality than the idealism of the North Pole, Buddy doesn’t let that dampen his spirits, as he meets Walter’s wife Emily (Caitlin Lester-Sams) and son Michael (Grady Miranda) and has his first human crush when encountering the jaded Jovie (Paloma D’Auria). Spreading holiday joy wherever he goes, warming hearts, and changing minds, Buddy inspires those around him to believe in Christmas again.
The musical is pretty formulaic, but it works. It contains a version of the relatable hero story, predictable songs that exude toe-tapping familiarity and joy, and optimistic performances that bring a smile.
Williams is adorable in every situation, with clear singing and line delivery that never deviates from Buddy’s child-like spirit, regardless of the circumstance. Miranda strikes a satisfying balance as 12-year-old Michael; chipper when the time calls for it, serious and mature for the heavier moments. Galyana Castillo as Walter’s secretary demonstrates a nice range for the role and is one of the more memorable and hilarious characters. Torrey Linder delivers some exciting surprises as the store manager.
Elf hats off to the ensemble for their demanding roles. Starting as jubilant elves walking and dancing on their knees to busy, gruff New Yorkers, then bustling around as retail and corporate employees, they dance and sing with gusto and stellar energy.
Memorable musical numbers include “Sparklejollytwinklejingley” with glittery costumes and flashy choreography. “Nobody Cares About Santa” takes a completely different mood but features an impressive men’s cast dancing in the red suit and boots.
Many areas in the script allow for contextual updates. As technology and pop culture references change, so do some lines and dance moves. It’s a great way to keep the story fresh for newer audiences, but some of the jokes seem to get lost on half the crowd. Younger patrons will likely giggle at Buddy’s “flossing” dance and Santa’s glee at having the game “Fortnite” on his iPad, but those 2018 references might go over some heads. It isn’t just the current references, though. Several humorous parts seem to only garner chuckles from parts of the audience, albeit different areas each time. Maybe opening night audiences are more difficult to cheer?
Their loss. Even if this level of cheesiness and pep doesn’t work all year long, the production delivers a generous dose of fun when we need it most.