‘Elf’ meets tall order for Christmas joy

CMPAC’s ‘Elf’ is perfect for the holiday season


Holiday theater creates core memories for many children who become lifelong patrons of the arts, and the challenge is to produce a show that is both fanciful, fun, and also of proper caliber for the artform.

The CM Performing Arts Center accomplishes that task with their December production, “Elf the Musical.”

The delightful modern classic of the human raised as an elf reuniting with his human father (and the human world of New York City) is beloved as a movie and clearly as a musical, with opening weekend sold out.

Director Alyse Nicole Arpino created a perfect snow-globe production of “Elf,” with its Tim Burton-style sets by John Mazzarella (of particular note is the “Beetlejuice”-like architecture and color palette of the Hobbs’ apartment) and candy-coated energy.

Arpino’s “Elf” is true to the spirit of the movie, but encompasses its own grit to which our ever effervescent main character, Buddy, manages to glitter away.

Michael Krudler as Buddy anchors the production in his pure-hearted feelings and indefatigable work ethic towards achieving yuletide Zen for himself and everyone around him.

Krudler is careful in not overplaying Buddy and making a farcical representation, but manages to create a central character longing to belong and struggling with reticent father figures in Santa and Walter Hobbs.

Not quite cut out as an Elf, with a hilarious and spot-on delivery by Keith Jones as elf-shift leader, Charlie, who through seething teeth remarks, “Only 85 [Etch A Sketches] and it’s 10 am?!,” Buddy is instructed by Santa to look for his biological father.

Nick Zappetti’s Santa is refreshingly dad-like, with his bets on college football and his eye rolls at his in-laws, and manages to give us an iteration of the father of Christmas as an invested, if not sometimes exhausted, hallmark of the season.

Emily Gates’s Jovie has a heartwarming character arc as the jaded and none-too-impressed love interest of Buddy, who opens up her Christmas spirit to him. Gates’s powerhouse voice belted across the audience and made for some of the production’s best crescendos.

Jovie isn’t the only sarcastic New Yorker encountered by Buddy, and Brendan Noble as the Macy’s manager plays the slick and pushy store leader with all the annoyance of anyone who’s worked in retail knows.

The biggest Grinch, though, is Walter Hobbs, played by James O’Connor, who also completes a 180 to loving, doting, and celebratory father. In “In the Way,” with onstage son, Michael, played by Quinn Lessing, O’Connor shines in his generosity as a co-performer.

“Nobody Cares About Santa” features a beautiful tableau as the curtain rises with exceptional choreography from DeAnna Feldman, who, throughout the production, captures the light fight of Christmastown and the heavier, more dramatic steps of the human world.

Costume designer Joe Kassner kept a cohesive, but still bright, costume theme for the elves while contrasting with the neutrals of the human world, particularly in the “quiet luxury” silk lounge pants of Heather Van Velsor Thogersen’s Emily Hobbs.

Musical director Carl Hottinger led an absolutely ethereal orchestra and seemed to work in perfect tandem with co-lighting designers Sophia Biondo and Kevin Purdy, as the ambiance of each musical number matched in hues and tones.

“Elf the Musical” is a rarity in the ability to appeal to children and adults alike (if nothing else, come to hear the fun jokes about New Jersey) and will be a the tree topper for your holiday season.


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