“Elf The Musical” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – November 25, 2023


“Elf The Musical”
The Phoenix Theatre Company, Mainstage Theatre
Phoenix AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

Expectations for “Elf The Musical,” based on the silly Will Ferrell 2003 film, were low.  How could a Christmas show based on that movie be turned into a joyous holiday extravaganza?  Well, a Christmas miracle occurs because The Phoenix Theatre Company’s (TPTC) production is just what Santa ordered.

The show’s London premiere, multiple Broadway runs, and annual national tours haven’t been huge hits.  Perhaps the previous productions including one five years ago at TPTC haven’t possessed the charismatic charm and top-notch production values that the current staging boasts.

The story is innately dumb.  A Manhattan baby, named Buddy, crawled into Santa’s delivery bag and returned with him to the North Pole where Buddy was raised by the Clauses elves.  Now grown and much taller than the other elves, Santa tells Buddy that his real father, Walter Hobbs, lives in New York City.  Buddy was the result of a youthful fling between his now deceased mother and Hobbs.  So, Buddy heads to New York to find his father who now has his own family.  Buddy stumbles and bumbles his way into the Hobbs household and New York City life but ultimately fascinates everybody.

It is the stunningly energized, snappily designed, expertly staged, and impeccably performed production that takes the musical’s slim trappings and makes them into a jubilant holiday celebration.  D. Scott Withers spritely directed showcase is filled with vivacious verve that is aided by Sam Hay’s exuberant choreography, Robert Kovach’s clever sets, Cari Smith’s colorful costumes, plus Daniel Davisson’s vibrant lighting and uncredited but expressive projections.

The ebullient production is performed by a gifted cast headed by Kevin Hack who romps around blissfully as Buddy as he crafts himself into a lovable charmer.  The dynamic cast that supports Hack makes the often-one-dimensional characters serve as critical story cogs.  Even child actor Dominic Cali keeps up with the adult ensemble as Michael, Buddy’s half-brother.

Chris Eriksen’s Hobbs starts out cowering but transforms into a fan.  Gene Ganssle is a sharp-witted Santa, Jenny Hintze’s Jovie evolves into a staunch supporter as Buddy’s lady love, Savannah Inez’s Deb, Walter’s assistant, uses comic mayhem to create multiple guffaws, while Debby Rosenthal couldn’t be better as Walter’s dutiful wife Emily who becomes a Buddy believer.  Kevin Robert White’s jazzy orchestra makes the most of Matthew Sklar’s simple but melodically charming music

If you are looking for a merry holiday show for your kids or even for adults who will luxuriate in some delightful comedy, clever double-entendres, and some well-placed jabs at contemporary musicals, this is your show transformed by TPTC into a jolly, bubbly, and effervescent holiday treasure.  “Elf The Musical” continues through December 30.  To order tickets, call The Phoenix Theatre Company box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A