Elf Jr. The Musical
Old Mill Theatre’s final production is a feel-good Christmas celebration, bursting with holiday feeling, youthful exuberance and community joy.
The lovely atmosphere begins in the foyer, as patrons are entertained by the Bel Canto Performing Arts choristers performing a selection of Christmas carols. A lovely way to get into the spirit of the show.
Elf Jr.is one of the best junior cuttings of a show I have seen, with minimal jumps in the action, and a good quality story line - loyal to both the original movie and full-length stage adaptation. As a result, this is a fun Christmas tale that is entertaining for all ages. It is performed by a cohesive team of children and teens, led with precision by director Katherine Friend.
Buddy the Elf is a human orphan who snuck into Santa’s sack as an infant. Raised by elves, he does not realise his true identity for years, and in this story he seeks to find his real father, an executive book publisher, who has lost the spirit of Christmas, and who is unaware of Buddy’s existence.
George O’Doherty is a loveable Buddy, whose genuine but ebullient performance keeps us completely engaged. He is thoroughly at home with his elf family, played by the youngest cast members (including Elf Shawanda - Taya Wilson) and Santa Claus - who might just be the real one (Ashley Garner couldn’t possibly make that quick change late in the show).
In New York we discover Buddy’s dad Walter (a strong performance from Blake Jenkins), his wife Emily (in a nicely nuanced portrayal by Kelsey Zampino) and son Michael (an impressive community theatre debut from Keaton Humphries). I enjoyed the input from Charlotte Kiely as secretary Deb, and the delightful cameo from Rowan Marley as Security.
We meet the staff at Macy’s, including love interest Jovie (a lovely Kaitlin Sonnendecker), Macy’s Manager (a solid performance from Cooper Jenkins) and a perplexed fake Santa (Toby Crestani).
Villain of the piece, Mr Greenaway, is played with outstanding expression, by Ashley Garner.
First time choreographer Gemma Trenbath has created dances that cater to a broad range of abilities, that are fun and well executed. The set is simple and projections (the wonderful Blake Jenkins) help set the scenes. John Woolrych’s lighting design captures the mood very well. The show uses a professional backing track, and my only disappointment was that solo singers are difficult to hear.
If you are feeling jaded by the end of year rush, this snack sized show is the perfect answer. Fun, festive, seasonal and sassy Elf Jr. is a crowd pleaser with great heart and well worth seeing.