'Elf' is a sweet holiday treat

  • Article by: Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 12, 2012 - 7:09 PM

REVIEW: Musical adaptation of the Will Ferrell comedy piles on the sugar, but its star proves to be a natural.

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Matt Kopec (Buddy) and Gordon Gray (Santa) star in “Elf: The Musical" at the Ordway.

Photo: Joan Marcus, Star Tribune

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In one of the most memorable bits in the musical "Elf," now playing at the Ordway, our hero Buddy sits down to eat pasta with his recently discovered family in Manhattan.

As little brother Michael looks on, Buddy pours syrup into his bowl.

You see, Buddy (Matt Kopec) -- who is 6 feet tall and was raised at the North Pole -- missed a lot of socialization as a child. One Christmas when he was a tot, Buddy slipped into Santa's bag and was taken away to be raised with elves. After outgrowing his peers, he gets the true story of his origins, which sets him on a path to find his family.

It consists of a publishing executive father, Walter Hobbs (Drew Pulver), who believes that Christmas gets "In the Way" of work; a practical mother, Emily (Julia Louise Hosack), who just wants her husband to spend a little more time with his family, and Michael (Conor Barth), who also would love to see more of Dad.

There is also Jovie (Kate Hennies), Buddy's awkward love interest.

"Elf" is adapted from the 2003 movie comedy that starred Will Ferrell. It retains many scenes from the film -- including Buddy's recurring turn in a revolving door -- but ramps up the holiday sentiment.

The creative team includes several old hands at turning Hollywood films into Broadway vehicles, including co-writer Thomas Meehan, who is best known for "Annie" but also wrote the books for "Hairspray," "The Producers" and "Young Frankenstein," and composer Matthew Sklar, who wrote the score for "The Wedding Singer" and was an arranger on "Shrek the Musical."

The score, with lyrics by Chad Beguelin, is not memorable, but it does sound familiar, recalling everything from "Singing in the Rain" to "Annie." Director Sam Scalamoni presents the show as a big, splashy pop-up book narrated by Santa Claus (Gordon Gray).

The cast channels many of the performances from the film. Like Ferrell, Kopec imbues Buddy with wide-eyed innocence and open emotion, but delivers them in a bigger and broader fashion. Kopec has a gorgeous singing voice that recalls a young Matthew Broderick. A natural, he leads a competent ensemble. Barth is delightful as Michael. Hosack lends the mother a common-sense touch. And Jen Bechter gives Deb, Walter's assistant, both sass and pizazz in a show that leaves you with a sugar high.

rpreston@startribune.com • 612-673-4390

  • ELF: THE BROADWAY MUSICAL

    Who: Book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin. Composed by Matthew Sklar. Lyrics by Chad Beguelin. Directed by Sam Scalamoni.

    When: 7:30 p.m. Wed. & Fri.; 2 & 7:30 p.m. Thu. & Sat.-Sun. Ends Dec. 30.

    Where: Ordway Center, 5th & Washington Sts., St. Paul.

    Tickets: $27-$120. 651-224-4222 or www.ordway.org.

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