Review: ‘Elf’ at Diamond Head Theatre
REVIEW BY JANE KERNS / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Diamond Head Theatre has been as busy as Santa’s workshop, preparing the energizing musical “Elf” for Honolulu audiences. And Buddy knows, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”
Many remember Buddy from Will Ferrell’s portrayal in the film version of “Elf.” As a baby, Buddy crawls into Santa’s bag on Christmas Eve, travels to the North Pole, and grows up amongst Santa and his elves. But his enormous size and ineptitude for toy-making eventually lead him to realize that he’s only a human.
Presented by Diamond Head Theatre
Where: Diamond Head Theatre, 520 Makapuu Ave.
With Santa’s blessing, Buddy ventures to Manhattan to find his real father. As he gains acceptance from his newfound family and friends, the magic of Christmas is miraculously restored to them and other non-believing city dwellers.
“Elf” has found success in its stage reincarnation. The show had seasonal runs on Broadway in 2010-11 and 2012-13, and is currently on a multi-city tour. The score by Matthew Sklar (music) and Chad Beguelin (lyrics), and book adapted by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan, combine to capture the film’s sense of fun, adding a sprinkling of adult-oriented jokes and lots of upbeat musical numbers.
Two New York talents hold the reins for this jolly sleigh ride. Director and choreographer Greg Zane creates some clever dance numbers for the jazz-infused score, and keeps the action moving at a good clip.
The driving force onstage is the multi-talented Jami Keck, who shines brightly in what he calls the ‘dream role’ of Buddy. A master of physical comedy, Keck is a childlike whirlwind of energy. His facial and body language convey the innocence, enthusiasm, and goofiness that make Buddy so irresistible.
Bob Frederick convincingly portrays Buddy’s impatient father Walter Hobbs. Jennifer Sojot, as his tenacious wife Emily, and Luke Ellis as their son Michael, also deliver fleshed-out performances, adding warmth to the story.
Zoe Pappas as the smart and cheerful secretary, and Dennis Proulx as the aggressive company bigwig exude considerable energy. As Buddy’s co-worker turned love interest Jovie, Dusty Behner charmingly delivers her song “Never Fall in Love.”
As usual, the fine instrumentalists led by Emmett G. Yoshioka provide colorful accompaniment for the dozen talented singers and dancers in the ensemble.
Though the first act never takes off, things start jumping after the intermission. “Nobody Cares About Santa” and its Rockette-like Kris Kringle kick line is clever and entertaining, and “The Story of Buddy The Elf” is equally delightful.
A couple of the show’s significant turning points need some amping up. The pivotal moment of the sighting of Santa in the sky lacks visual impact. The climax of the show also falls flat. When Buddy pleads with a crowd of curious though dubious spectators in Central Park to believe in order to save Christmas, their feelings of suspense, wonder and excitement are necessary to deliver the show’s primary message regarding the magic of the season.
Overall, Buddy and his adventures are good, family-friendly fun. For a special holiday outing, “Elf” is the ticket.
Jane Kerns is a doctoral student in musicology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, holds degrees in theatre and vocal performance, and has performed as an actor and singer in New York City.