“Elf The Musical” – Phoenix Theatre

Theater Review – November 17, 2018


Mainstage Theatre, Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Perky, sparkling polished, and lavishly produced holiday musicals that have family appeal are few and far between.  Phoenix Theatre discovers a winner in “Elf The Musical” based on the popular 2003 film that starred Will Ferrell.  PT mounts an energetic and colorful production that is loaded with rapidly changing scenery, a brightly colored holiday wardrobe, familiar characters, D. Scott Withers’ rollickingly flamboyant direction, exuberant Sam Hay dances, and an outstanding cast headed by the comically gifted Toby Yatso.

Yatso essays a loveable but comically amusing Buddy, the real child raised by Santa Claus at the North Pole as an elf who suddenly arrives in New York City and quickly realizes the real world isn’t pristine but he adapts with finesse to the rough and tumble environment he inhabits.

During the show, Buddy convinces New Yorkers to believe in Santa Claus and the season’s merriment as he tugs at the doubters until they too believe.

The story is effervescent frivolity but on opening night a capacity crowd gave it a standing ovation, while several young children in the audience remained quiet and glued to the stage.  “Elf” isn’t a great musical nor will it appeal to discerning musical theater lovers but it works perfectly for families trying to transition into the holiday spirit.  The songs aren’t distinguished but they tunefully evoke Christmas.

Yatso is the perfect Buddy.  He bubbles with endless energy as he tackles the harsh world.  Yatso moves gloriously, sings with booming luster, and appears to have the time of his life bringing the simple story to vibrant life.

But the remarkable cast doesn’t stop with Yatso.  Gene Ganssle glistens as Santa, Chris Eriksen is initially gruff and demanding as Buddy’s real father, Walter Hobbs, who transitions to joyful exuberance when he becomes a believer.  Debby Rosenthal dazzles as Buddy’s elegant mother, Emily Hobbs.  Anne Lise Koyabe is a hoot as Hobbs’ fun-loving secretary Deb, and Jenny Hintze glows as Buddy’s girlfriend Jovie.  On opening night, Corban Adams was spectacular as pint-sized Michael holding the slim story together.  Adams shares the role with two other young actors at various performances.  A polished singing and dancing ensemble bustles about instilling additional magic into the proceedings.

If you are looking for a joyous family excursion guaranteed to get everyone in a gala holiday mood, you can’t miss with “Elf The Musical” that continues at Phoenix Theatre through December 30.  It may not be the best musical but it sparkles with holiday verve.  To buy tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A-