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Elf is a musical based on the motion picture of the same name, with a score by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin. The book is adapted by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan from the 2003 film. The musical ran on Broadway in the Christmas seasons of 2010-11 and 2012–13, and also toured the U.S. in 2012. A new tour launched in 2014.
William "Buddy" Hobbs, a young orphan child, mistakenly crawls into Santa Claus' bag of gifts and is transported back to the North Pole. After discovering the baby, Santa and his elves decide to raise the child as an elf. Years later, Buddy finds out that he's actually a human being and, at Santa's prompting, heads off to New York City in search of his father, Walter Hobbs.
Faced with the harsh reality that Walter is on the naughty list and his son, Michael, doesn't even believe in Santa, Buddy is determined to win over his birth family and help New York City remember the true meaning of Christmas.
Differences from the film
The story is narrated by Santa Claus rather than Papa Elf, the latter character not even appearing in the musical. The story in the musical is said to have begun three years ago, rather than thirty years ago in the movie, so that there's no age limit on the actor playing Buddy. Minor changes from the movie to the musical include Santa Claus using an iPad instead of a list of names while delivering gifts, Buddy and Jovie's child being changed from a girl to a boy, the department store scenes taking place at Macy's instead of Gimbels, and Buddy being dropped off at the Hobbs house instead of being bailed out of jail by Walter. The musical also adds a subplot about Michael and Emily Hobbs' disbelief in Santa Claus. And instead of having an elf named Ming Ming, they changed the name to Charlie and had a girl elf named Tequila.
Several notable scenes from the film are also absent, including Buddy's visit to the mail room of the Empire State Building and Buddy rescuing Michael from school bullies in a Central Park snowball fight. The film and musical also strongly deviate in the character of Walter Hobbs. In the film, Walter is portrayed as greedy, obsessed with his work, and deliberately neglectful of his family duties. In the musical, he is shown as more bumbling, forgetful, and overworked. It is also explained by Santa Claus in the film that Walter is on the "Naughty List" because of his greed and general meanness, whereas in the musical it is because he doesn't believe in Santa. And in the conference room, Buddy pitches the idea of making the book about how he came to the North Pole (leading to the song, "The Story of Buddy the Elf") and Mr. Green loves the story, but Walter quits after Mr.Green wants to change the main character in the story from an elf to a horse, instead of Walter going with Micheal to bring Buddy back home with Mr. Green firing Walter.
The musical numbers in the original Broadway production were as follows:
Subsequent productions including the Broadway revival and West End production replaced "Christmastown" with "Happy All the Time" and "I'll Believe in You (Reprise)" with "World's Greatest Dad (Reprise)".Casts
The original principal casts of all major productions.
After a 2009 workshop, the musical officially opened for a limited holiday engagement at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on Broadway on November 14, 2010, following previews from November 2, 2010. Casey Nicholaw directed. The final performance took place January 2, 2011 after a run of 15 preview and 57 regular performances. A Broadway cast recording was released on November 1, 2011. Leading the original cast was Wicked and Jersey Boys star Sebastian Arcelus, who was joined by Broadway alums Amy Spanger and Beth Leavel.
North American tours (2012, 2013, 2014, 2016)
Presented by NETworks, a mini-tour of the musical played select cities across North America for the 2012 holiday season. Stops include Providence, RI (Nov. 4-10), Appleton, WI (Nov. 13-18), Tampa, FL (Nov. 20-25), Fort Myers, FL (Nov. 27-Dec. 2) and St. Paul, MN (Dec. 5-30). Two separate tours, running simultaneously, began in 2013, and again 2014, 2015, and 2016. In 2017 there will again be two separate tours, running from November to the end of December.
Broadway revival (2012–13)
Following the success of the 2010 production, the musical returned to the Al Hirschfeld for a second holiday season beginning November 9, 2012, on a run through January 6, 2013. This new production featured a revised book and a brand new opening number "Happy All the Time."
West End production (2015–16)
A new production of the musical opened at the Dominion Theatre on October 24, 2015, for a 10-week run until January 2, 2016. This production features Ben Forster as Buddy and Kimberley Walsh as Jovie. This production was received with mixed reviews. As of December 2015, it was announced that Elf the Musical had officially become the fastest selling show since the Dominion Theatre opened in 1929.
A separate production ran at The 5th Avenue Theatre for a limited engagement in Seattle beginning November 30, 2012, on a run through December 31.The Canadian premiere of the production ran from November 20, 2012 to January 6, 2013 at Neptune Theatre (Halifax), Nova Scotia.A 2013 touring production went under the name Elf the Musical.A production of the musical also ran at the Paper Mill Playhouse from Nov 26, 2014 until Jan 4, 2015.
On December 16, 2014, NBC broadcast a stop-motion animated adaptation of the musical entitled Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas. It featured the voices of Jim Parsons as Buddy, Mark Hamill as Walter, Ed Asner reprising his film role as Santa, Garfunkel and Oates' Kate Micucci as Jovie, Rachael MacFarlane as Emily, Max Charles as Michael, Gilbert Gottfried as Mr. Greenway, and Jay Leno as the leader of the fake Santas. The screenplay was written by Andrew Horvath, Michael Jelenic with Martin and Meehan. It also contained Guardino, Sklar, and Beguelin's songs from this musical. This special also featured a new song titled "Freezy the Snowman".
It had a limited national tour in November 2017. The tour featured Erik Gratton as Buddy, with direction by Sam Scalamoni and choreography by Connor Gallagher. There was also a late 2017 tour until January 14, 2018 in The Lowry theatre in Salford, with Ben Forster as Buddy. On December 24, 2017, it also aired on Channel 5, after being recorded live at The Lowry.Due to several "potty" words, the show at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Illinois in late November 2017 was changed from a rating of G to PG, with Paramount saying it should have been PG "from the beginning." At the time, it was near breaking the theater's attendance records. It also played in Boston.Starting on December 13, 2017, it began playing at the Madison Square Garden theater, to be held there until December 29, 2017. With George Wendt playing Santa in New York, TimeOut said it was one of the best Christmas shows in New York that year.
Mark Kennedy of ABC News called the production "a tight, polished, expensive-looking affair that has enough jokes for adults and enough special effects for kids." In 2013, the Washington Post said the musical made the movie look "nuanced." The show in 2015 received mixed reviews from professional critics at publications such as The Guardian. The Guardian didn't much like the 2015 performance, but did praise Ben Forster as Buddy for his "anarchic glee." A New York Times critic described the original Broadway production as "tinseled in synthetic sentiment, performed with a cheer that borders on mania, and instantly forgettable."The performance in late 2017 in Aurora received a mostly positive review in the Chicago Sun Times, who said the "immense energy" of the show could be overwhelming, with Kyle Adams as Buddy. The Salt Lake City performance received a mixed to positive review from the Deseret News. A review in Broadway World critic praised it in 2017 in Boston, and observed that children in the show seemed to love the production and pay rapt attention, with Erik Gratton in the title role praised for his performance as Buddy. The English production was well-reviewed by the Manchester Evening News in 2017.
The musical broke records at the Hirschfeld box office three times, grossing over a million dollars in one week. It was the third best-grossing show for the 2010 Thanksgiving weekend, behind Wicked and The Lion King.
Awards and honors
Official Tour Website 2014-15
Elf the Musical at the Internet Broadway Database
Elf: The Musical at the Music Theatre International website
Elf The Musical Phoenix