Spreading Christmas cheer for all to hear with Elf Jr.
I am a well-known lover of Christmas. The decorations, the food, the music, and the movies — especially the movies. Some of my favorite holiday memories are of settling into a fire-lit room with a cup of cocoa to watch Miracle on 34th Street, Holiday Inn, It’s a Wonderful Life, or Christmas Vacation.
I like the classics, and there are only a handful of 21st century Christmas films upon which I would bestow that moniker. Interestingly, two of them came out the same year. 2003 gave us Love Actually (not suitable for a Youtheatre adaptation) … and Elf.
In recent years, it has been my honor and challenge to bring some family favorite films to life on the Youtheatre stage for Christmas — A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frozen, and now Elf. I say “challenge” because, as with any well-loved film, the audience’s expectations are great and specific. I feel a huge responsibility to not ruin anyone’s Christmas by delivering on those expectations and finding ways to surprise and delight and to make the story fresh.
I actually believe I resisted seeing Elf when it first came out. I wasn’t a huge fan of Will Ferrell’s other movies at the time and made assumptions based on those. When I finally caught it on TV a Christmas or two later, I discovered a very different film and loved it.
When I then heard of a Broadway musical version, it too seemed like a terrible idea to be avoided. Again, I was wrong. If ever a character was born to sing, it’s Buddy the Elf, fearlessly brought to life here by Josiah Beights!
Whether on film or stage, there is a wonderful innocence and simple perspective that Buddy brings to a world of chaos. He serves as a great reminder for all to enjoy the world around us with child-like wonderment, joy, and hope. There is often so much going on in our lives that it seems impossible to live today without stressing about tomorrow.
In theater, we work overtime at the holidays to provide what we hope will become cherished traditions and memories for others. To do so, we sacrifice time spent with our families baking cookies, buying gifts and, yes, watching movies. But I love giving that gift to an audience.
This staff, production team, and cast are among the funniest, weirdest, kindest, most maddening, and talented people I know. In short, they’re a family, and I love spending the holidays with my Youtheatre family.
My hope, as you watch the show, is that you can share some laughs and live in the moment as your family and ours come together, creating holiday memories while this incredible cast spreads some cheer by singing loud for all to hear. Happy Holidays!