Although most of the lights, ornaments, garland and trees are packed away, Mitchell Area Community Theatre has used the magic of performance to extend the holiday season with its winter offering “Elf — The Musical” (book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Chad Beguelin). Directed by Tim Goldammer, this show is based on the popular film, “Elf,” an annual holiday staple written by David Berenbaum.
The story of Buddy the Elf is the story of a typical misfit; Buddy can’t succeed as a human in Santa’s world of magical elves, but he’s also ill-equipped for the big city as he tries to find his birth father in New York. Through song, dance and some much-needed Christmas spirit, Buddy teaches his father the true meaning of family and finds his own along the way.
Jonathan Freeman plays Buddy with joy and exuberance. Mike Baker, an ACT veteran is terrifically cast as Santa Claus. Buddy’s dad (newcomer Riley Harrington) finds a way to be both abrasive and likeable. Buddy’s love interest, Jovie, played by Laretta McPeek, with just the right amount of cynicism in place of holiday spirit is a great foil to Buddy’s effervescence. I especially enjoyed Auston Twiggs as Michael, Buddy’s younger brother, who, along with mother Emily (Kate Miller), makes up the rest of Buddy’s family.
Several excellent performances are delivered under the guidance of music director Renea Schoenfelder. Buddy’s “World’s Greatest Dad” is tender and endearing. Michael and Emily perform a heartfelt duet with “I’ll Believe in You.” The company tells us “The Story of Buddy the Elf” in song and dance. You’ll be amazed at Santa’s basso profundo rendition of “Nobody Cares about Santa,” and the full company showstopper, “Sparklejollytwinklejingley.”
The sets are simple with wheeled pieces used to take us to the North Pole, Manhattan, Walter’s busy office, the Hobbs home and everywhere else along the way. Although we never see Santa’s sleigh flying, a great use of lights helps us to imagine. Special effects include a snow machine and a replica of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.
Ruth Sejnoha and Darcie Vermuelen’s costumes are wonderful, particularly the team of elves, ranging in size from near adult to small child, and Buddy's iconic suit, complete with the requisite yellow “tights.” Choreographers Kayla White and Samantha Menning create some merry dances that allow the cast to shine.
Accompaniment is pre-recorded with sound operated by Noel Ahlers and Kadee Vermeulen. All song performances were on-cue perfect the night I attended. Although the actors wear masks, you will not even be aware of them once the action gets rolling. The radio microphones were worn outside of the masks and delivered quality sound that was easy to hear.
This show, delayed by COVID-19, is a bright spot on a dark January night. Just because Christmas is over does not mean that we can’t enjoy the brightness and festivities just a little longer. Buddy and company will make sure that we carry a bit of Christmas with us all year long.
The show by the Mitchell Area Community Theatre has performances at 7:30 p.m Thursday, Jan. 21, Friday, Jan. 22 and Saturday, Jan. 23 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24 at the Pepsi-Cola Theatre. Tickets are on sale at the theater and more information is available at 996-9137 or www.mitchellact.org.