by Terrance Mc Arthur
Once upon a time…an orphaned baby crawled into Santa’s sack and was carried to the North Pole, where he grew up thinking he was an elf…Oh, you’ve heard this one? A Will Ferrell movie called Elf, you say? (A movie everyone seems to have seen—except me.) Well, in 2010, a musical version opened on Broadway, and it usually plays at Christmastime. Elf: The Musical is now onstage in a Good Company Players production at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater through January 9, and that’s a good thing. You should be glad.
Raised by elves, Buddy (Shawn Williams) learns he is human and travels to New York to meet his father (Greg Ruud), who works for a publisher of children’s books. His naivety causes chaos everywhere he goes, but he meets a girl (Camille Gaston)—Well, he causes chaos there, too.
As Ferrell was the center of the movie, Shawn Williams is the tent-pole this production hangs on. He’s wide-eyed, he’s energetic, he sings, he dances, he jumps, he squeals, and you love him. He’s confident in all he does, which makes sense, because Williams played Buddy in the 2019 GCP production, Some iconic scenes from the film are re-created (the revolving door), some are deleted (Papa Elf does not appear), and new ideas are added (Just watch for them.).
Ruud (another returnee from the 2019 production) is surly and job-centered as Walter Hobbs, who goes from “naughty” to “nice” by the influence of the son he never knew. He’s grumpy, but not threatening, as he was as Bill Sykes in GCP’s Oliver!
Gaston is a gift box of a performer who seems like a quiet thing until the wisecracks start riffing out as she unwraps—and then she sings, a charge of explosive power that commands you to listen. It’s always a joy when her electric quality brightens the stage.
Emily Madden, as Emily Hobbs, shows patience and understanding as she regains the Christmas spirit, and learns to believe. Logan Mclamore is winning as Michael Hobbs, learning to accept his unexpected half-brother. Lyric Gianni is lithe and agile as Deb, the publishing house secretary.
Roger Christensen makes a friendly Santa Claus, eager to share the story of his friend, Buddy the Elf, and perplexed by the lack of Christmas Spirit in the Big Apple. Steve Souza is quite a character as a manager at Macy’s. Eric Bako is mean as the publisher and a fake Santa, while Joseph Ham plays four characters, including Charlie, a sympathetic elf manager.
Emily Pessano’s direction coats all the silliness in a softness that tugs at the heart, while David Pierce’s sets use snowflakes and lights to make everything magical. I’m crazy about Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed’s costumes for the female elves; they remind me of somewhere between Manga and Shirley Temple.
For the preshow, a rotating group of cast members and other GCP stalwarts offer up traditional holiday tunes, unusual holiday tunes, and a whole lot of heart.
Elf: The Musical is the cure for the Holiday Blues. For this, you should get vaccinated! The show plays at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, 1226 N. Wishon, in Fresno. Tickets can be purchased on their website or by calling the box office at (559) 266-9494.
Don’t be a cotton-headed ninny muggins! Go see Elf: The Musical!
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