Note to readers – Part II of the "fridge follies" column will have to wait another week. The saga continues!
My kids and I laughed our butts off watching “Elf,” the hilarious 2003 Will Ferrell movie about a lanky, lovable elf who discovers he’s human. So, my fingers were crossed that Holly and I would enjoy the Paramount Theatre’s musical incarnation of the story. It opened a couple of weeks ago under the direction of Amber Mak, with music director Tom Vendafreddo, and we were not disappointed.
Thoroughly engaging, funny and all around well done, par for the course for all Paramount productions, “Elf” stays pretty close to the original story. My daughter’s favorite part?
“I loved the elf,” she said, and so did I. Kyle Adams, perfectly cast to play Buddy the Elf, with his 6-foot-4 lanky frame and comic physicality, gets big laughs when he impulsively grabs a Salvation Army bell ringer’s bells and loses himself in his own tune, eyes at half-mast. Adams pulls it off perfectly. What a stitch!
The Paramount cast’s other “Elf” notables include Samantha Pauly as Jovie, Michael Accardo as workaholic dad Walter Hobbs, Oliver Boomer as Michael Hobbs (oh, the voice on that kid!), Lara Filip as Emily Hobbs and Jonathan Butler-Duplessis as the Macy’s store manager. Holly remembered him.
“That’s the lobster!” she said, recalling Butler-Duplessis’ scene-stealing star-turn last season in the Paramount’s “The Little Mermaid.” The scene-stealers in this production, besides Adams’ Buddy, of course, are the set design, wardrobe and overall direction.
“It really looked like New York City,” Holly commented, and it did. The building props, use of the color gray and the speed-walking, bustling crowds evoked an intense mood perfectly poised to pop when uninhibited, guileless Buddy arrives in their midst. Contagious joy and uninhibited hugs (Buddy quickly learns that, yeah, non-consensual hugging isn’t cool!) are just what this city, sorely suffering from a deficit of Christmas spirit, truly needs.
Holly noted that the Paramount’s production lacks a few of the original movie’s best scenes – like the one where Buddy, armed with a few snowballs, defends his new-found younger brother from bullies. And another, “a shower scene – wait, that sounds bad!” Holly said, laughing. Anyhow, Will Ferrell’s character sings “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in a shower room, a scene that cracked her up.
“Ha! True, but that song really creeps me out,” I said. “Have you really listened to the lyrics?” It’s basically a conversation between a man and a woman considering whether or not they should share a romantic night together, and – after some back and forth – the woman clearly declines. But he keeps on.
Take a listen to the lyrics (written in the '40s by lyricist Frank Leosser) for yourself through the lens of our country’s current consent conundrum, and you may find you’re left with a similarly icky feeling. Consider how some, long asleep, finally are waking up to the realities that our culture has long been steeped in a lazy acceptance of sexual harassment and assault. Heck, even Garrison Keillor fell from his pedestal last week! Who’s next, Santa?
I digress. I know – but I’m glad that song was left off the play list for this show. Speaking of the bearded fellow, does Buddy the Elf ever summon enough Christmas spirit to help get Santa’s sleigh off the ground? And does it snow? Don’t be a "cotton-headed ninny muggins"! Grab some tickets, grab your kids and find out for yourself!
Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her family. Her column runs regularly in the Kane Weekend section of the Kane County Chronicle. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
What: "Elf: The Musical"
When: Through Jan. 7
Where: Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora
Tickets: ParamountAurora.com or 630-896-6666