Each holiday season, the Beck Center puts on a child-centered show. The scripts are like BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, LITTLE MERMAID and SHREK. These are selections that have an audience involving well-known stories, music and lyrics, performances, silly humor or dramatic storylines, and the possibility of choreographic creativity.
This year’s offering is ELF, the story of Buddy Hobbs, a young orphan who one Christmas Eve slips into Santa’s sack of presents while the merry old man delivers presents.
When he returns to the North Pole, Santa Claus and the elves decide that Buddy, as they named him, should be raised as an elf. It wouldn’t have been a problem, but the little baby grew into a tall, lanky man. When Buddy realizes, after hearing a discussion, that he is a human, and although his mother is dead, he has a living father, he goes to New York in search of Walter Hobbs, his father.
Dressed in his elf clothes, Buddy runs into all kinds of conflict with reality. His father is not interested in another son because he already has one that he basically ignores. Buddy falls in love with a beautiful woman who is not interested in his affection. Department store Santas don’t like Buddy exposing them as scams. But … in the end, of course, Buddy finds love and love and even more love.
Looks like it could be fun. The film version of the tale was a total grotesque delight.
Sadly, the slim pencil plot of Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan sketched out from the film, and the mundane music of Matthew Sklar, and bland lyrics by Chad Beguelin, just aren’t memorable enough to hold attention and fascinate. the audience on poor Buddy’s journey. .
As a reviewer of one of the script’s short films on Broadway put it, “the production is graced with synthetic feelings and is instantly forgettable.”
This review said the show was “performed with a cheer that borders on mania.” If only Beck’s directing was ridiculous, overdone, or filled with the movie’s slapstick or even the ill-fated Great White Way show, it might have a saving grace.
The directing overlooked so many opportunities to go beyond the inane script and add some grotesque fun to the action. This show could be a hoot, or at least, fun.
Martin Céspedes is one of the region’s most creative choreographers. It can make almost any script shine. Unfortunately, due to the one-tone music, he doesn’t have the opportunity to get his hands on his bag of stuff and create some mesmerizing visual delights. The bland rhythm of the show also limits it because the production numbers must be inspired by the philosophy of the staging. He can’t have a dazzling dance when the rest of the production lacks spice.
This does not mean that the actors did not put all their efforts. It made. Lanky Tim Allen strives to make Buddy charming and likable. Unfortunately, he is not given enough “schtick” to have a good time playing the part. Young Owen Hill (Michael Hobbs) has a formidable voice, but the quality of the songs he’s given to sing just doesn’t match his vocal qualities. Merrie Drees (Jovie) and Lily Warner (Deb) have beautiful singing voices.
The highlight of the show is Brittany Merenda’s creative visual projections in which the front stage and interior prosceniums of the stage are an ever-changing display of holiday gift wrap designs.
Larry Goodpasture’s large orchestra plays well and Beck’s temperamental sound system is nicely tamed by Carlton Guc. Steve Shack’s lighting design adds a warm comedic quality to the scene.
CAPSULE JUDGMENT: Beck’s ELF doesn’t have the ridiculous quality and creativity of the movie it’s based on. Part of the problem is the poor quality of the script. The rest is the lack of creativity in the staging. It may be an enjoyable sitting for some, but for others it will be a quickly forgettable experience.
ELF runs until January 2, 2021 at the Senney Theater at the Beck Center for Performing Arts. For tickets call 216-521-2540 X10.
Next step at Beck: LIZZIE, a sexy and bloody American mythology on a dazzling hard rock score. Produced in collaboration with Baldwin Wallace University Music Theater Program. It takes place from February 4 to 26.