Elf (REVIEW)

Ben Forster As Buddy (centre) And The Cast In Elf Credit Alastair Muir

A stage version of the hit movie lands in the West End much to the delight of both children and adults

The musical adaptation of the hit 2003 film 'Elf' is an early Christmas treat for both adults and children alike.

If you've not seen the film, 'Elf' tells the story of how one young man ended up living in the North Pole with Santa Claus and all of his elves and what he does to find out where he's really from.

Ben Forster is perfect as Buddy. You see, he was a young orphan child who had crawled into Santa's bag of gifts on a Christmas Eve many years ago. He was transported to the North Pole where his poor toy-making abilities, and human size, makes him realize that Santa Claus is not his real father and he's actually not an Elf as well. So Buddy, with the help of Santa, finds out who his real father is, and decides that it's time to leave the safe confines of the North Pole and to discover where he really came from.

Arriving in New York, it's all big buildings and lots of people, and Buddy is astonished and excited about this world he didn't know existed. He wanders into Macy's department store, all decorated for Christmas, which makes Buddy feel like he's back in the North Pole. He's mistaken for a store elf and is put to work decorating. There he meets Jovie (Kimberly Walsh), a store worker who Buddy takes a keen interest in. But his bubble gets burst when the store Santa is not the real Santa he left back in the North Pole.

Buddy then goes to his father's office - a children's book publishing company - right inside the Empire State Building. Buddy's first encounter is with the funny and wonderful Deb (Jennie Dale), the company secretary. They hit it off like white on rice. But once he meets his father, Walter Hobbs (Joe McGann), it's a bit of a letdown for Buddy as his father denies and doesn't even want Buddy around. But one thing leads to another and Buddy spends the night at the Hobbs' Central Park apartment with Mrs. Hobbs (Jessica Martin) and their young son Michael Hobbs (Ewan Rutherford on the night I saw it). Mrs. Hobbs has a test done to see if Walter is the true father of Buddy, and the test results turn out that indeed, yes, Walter is the father. Buddy is ecstatic, he finally knows where he came from, and also has a younger brother to boot. But not all is well in the Big Apple; Mr. Hobb's publishing company needs to find a hit book fast before the CEO comes into town, while Jovie, even though she is pretty and bubbly, doesn't want to spend another Christmas alone, and at the same time Santa's sleigh is having a hard time flying through New York City because of all the doom and gloom and lack of Christmas cheer in the city. Leave it up to Buddy to find a solution for all three!

'Elf' is a musical delight. It's in a perfect home, the very large Dominion Theatre at Tottenham Court road, a theatre that allows the show to have huge sets, including Santa's North Pole workshop, complete with elves (played by adult actors on their knees with dangling fake legs - an optical illusion for the eyes), to Mr. Hobbs office - complete with the elevator, to Macy's department store, both inside and outside, to the Hobb's gorgeous living room, with a very large window facing Central Park, and finally taking us to the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center. The musical numbers are fun - with Buddy singing 'World's Greatest Dad' while Mrs. Hobbs and Michael sing 'I'll Believe in You' and then the cast sing 'A Christmas Song.' The first half is where most of the story takes place, and is longer. The second half neatly wraps up all of the drama from the first half.

It's just the start of November and Christmas is less than 50 days away, so what better way to kick off the Christmas season than to make a visit to see 'Elf?' Take the kids, the in-laws, the neighbors - you will all thoroughly enjoy yourselves, and will marvel at the end how Santa and his sleigh rides over the audience. There's not an ounce of coal in this show, and it will put you in the Christmas spirit.