“To Thine Elf Be True.”
Some of you attended the national touring production of Elf the Musical about a year ago at the Juanita K. Hammons Hall. The show is based on the popular holiday fish-out-of-water comedy film starring Will Farrell. Springfield Little Theatre will present a “Junior” version of Elf the Musical, cut down in length somewhat from the “big” stage show and suitable for a cast of youth players, November 24 through December 10 at the Landers Theatre, 311 E. Walnut.
LT isn’t hurting for “youth players” in this production, according to director/choreographer Zoe Zelonky. “We have a cast of 79 kids, age 7 to 18.” Asked if a group of youth actors that large is “fun to corral,” Zelonky immediately replies “I love it!” Adds actress Megan Dupas, “It’s awesome, they’re so cute. They’re amazing to work with.” The stepdaughter of KSMU’s Scott Harvey is in the show. “Yes,” says Zelonky, “she’s awesome! She’s a great elf—I think she’s Elf Number 2. And she’s excellent. They’re all amazing kids. They all work super-hard.”
Much as there are differences between the full-length “Elf the Musical” and the “Junior” version for youth players, there are differences between the stage show and what people saw in the original Will Farrell movie version. For one thing, there’s no Bob Newhart character—“Papa Elf” is not a part of either stage adaptation. All his duties, especially the narration, are given to Santa on-stage. Of course, the addition of original musical numbers to the stage show might constitute the biggest difference from the movie. “I love it,” says Zoe Zalonky. “It’s got me totally in the Christmas spirit!”
Christmas spirit—or lack thereof--is, in fact, the main point of the show. Buddy, the “Elf” of the title, a young orphan, mistakenly crawled into Santa’s bag of gifts and wound up living at the North Pole in Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole. Raised as an elf, his toymaking skills leave a lot to be desired, and it eventually becomes obvious that he’s a full-sized human rather than an elf. Buddy obtains Santa’s permission to go to New York City in order to find his biological father and half-brother. What Buddy finds in New York is that neither his biological family, nor most other people for that matter, have the Christmas spirit—or believe in Santa (which places both Buddy’s father and half-brother on Santa’s Naughty List!). This is a major problem, as peoples’ belief in Santa is what powers Santa’s sleigh! So in addition to trying to find—and fit into—a human family he’s never known, Buddy tries his best to help New York City remember the true meaning of Christmas. Buddy goes to Macy’s, for example, and discovers the employees there are particularly down on Christmas—even Jovie, the young woman Buddy falls in love with. “He’s a little too cheerful for New York City, and a little too clumsy to be working in Santa’s workshop,” according to Zoe Zelonky.
The disparity between the human-sized Buddy and the—well, elf-sized elves—is accounted for in this Little Theatre production by casting small children as Santa’s elves. “So Buddy definitely sticks out,” says Zoe Zelonky. Bud Triplett, cast as Buddy, is a “pretty tall, normal-sized teenager,” she adds. “He looks a LOT bigger than the elves when he’s out there. He’s amazing—this is his first mainstage production with us at the Landers Theatre. He’s from Conway, Missouri. Everybody is going to be so charged by him.” Other cast members include Amber Eggimann as Jovie, Wesley Brown as Santa, Keavan Cole as Buddy’s half-brother Michael, and Wyatt Munsey as Buddy’s biological father Walter Hobbs.
Megan Dupas plays Walter’s long-suffering secretary Deb. “I think Walter can come off a bit harsh,” she admits. “But I think, deep inside, he does have a soft spot for, at least, his kids, and maybe even the Christmas spirit. He just doesn’t realize it.” As for Deb herself, Dupas calls her character “amazing—I love everything about her. I love playing her. She kind of takes Walter with a grain of salt, no matter what he throws at her.” Deb’s all about making “today a good day.”
The production of Elf Jr. opens Friday Nov.24 at 7:30pm, and will run Thursday through Saturday at 7:30pm with 2:00pm matinees Saturdays and Sundays through December 10. Tickets range from $12-$23 and are available at the Landers box office, 869-1334 or at www.springfieldlittletheatre.org.