November 1, 2022



Currently on its fifth year of touring the country, ELF THE MUSICAL follows in the footsteps of such iconic films as Hairspray that have successfully grown from screen to stage, reinventing themselves anew for live audiences. And like the 2003 movie that inspired it, ELF THE MUSICAL has become a new holiday tradition.

In New Line Cinema’s hit Christmas comedy, Will Ferrell charmed audiences and won over critics as Buddy, Santa’s not-so-little helper who, at age 30, discovers he’s actually a human being. With a wide-eyed sincerity, the big gleeful goofball from the North Pole defrosts the hearts of chilly New Yorkers as he falls in love with jaded Jovie and searches for his real father. The movie quickly became a modern classic, landing on lists of all-time great holiday movies alongside It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street and A Christmas Story. Perhaps more importantly, the film continues to draw friends and families together for annual holiday viewings.

ELF premiered on Broadway in 2010 and became an instant hit. For ELF to work on the stage, the creative team knew it was crucial to include the movie’s familiar locations, but with some shiny new elements and fresh humor. So they created big, flashy Broadway song and dance numbers that take place inside Santa’s workshop and outdoors in Central Park. There’s clever skating choreography in Rockefeller Plaza, and, of course, the Empire State Building looms large. Since its successful New York debut, ELF THE MUSICAL has been taken on the road with nine different touring companies, all under the direction of Sam Scalamoni and choreography by Connor Gallagher.

“When I signed up to do ELF, I thought we’d do it for a year,” Scalamoni recalls. “Now here we are getting ready to launch yet another tour. It’s amazing to watch people’s response to this. They have such a passion for the film that it’s become this new holiday event. ‘Not only can we watch it on TV, but we can go see it and experience the story live in this fresh Broadway show!'”

For a live show to appeal to all ages it has to operate on multiple levels. ELF’s smart and funny opening number, “Happy All the Time,” strikes a perfect chord from the start with the indefatigable elves singing and dancing and making toys, while Santa laments that he loves his elves and loves Christmas, but it’s sometimes a little exhausting because they’re just so darn happy all the time. The writers made the show accessible to young people, with enough sophisticated storytelling to engage the parents, too.

“You can be smart and witty and have something for everybody,” Gallagher explains. “The younger kids are just really excited to see everybody jumping around in colors and they’re looking at the slapstick comedy, while the adults are picking up on the dry humor of the piece.”

The elves’ diminutive size in the movie was suggested by forced perspective and trick photography. For the stage, costumer Gregg Barnes had to get creative to make the full-sized actors appear small; specially designed “knee shoes” allow the actors to walk and dance on their knees, creating a special challenge for Gallagher – with whom Scalamoni worked on Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast – in the process. “It unlocks another whole way to move your body,” the choreographer proclaims.

In conceiving their stage Buddy, the creators had some big curly-toed elf shoes to fill. Scalamoni realized that Ferrell’s appeal was in his portrayal of Buddy as uncharacteristically genuine, sweet and honest. So the challenge in casting their stage Buddy is not to imitate Will Ferrell; rather to find an actor who can convey that heart and sincerity. And because it’s live theater, he also has to be that rare a triple threat – someone who can act, dance and sing – with impeccable comic charisma and an athlete’s stamina to keep up the energy for 90 minutes on stage. Stage Buddy gets to make the role his own, just as long as it’s believable.

“What makes ELF work as a movie and as a show is it doesn’t get too saccharine sweet,” says Scalamoni. “It does tap into that emotion of holiday time in a nice contemporary way that’s accessible today, that doesn’t feel old and clunky. We’ve had amazing audience response all over the country. It’s become a part of families’ new holiday tradition.”

Gallagher agrees. “We had no idea ELF would be the hit it has become. It’s a gift to be able to come back and revisit the material year after year.”

ELF | November 16-17, 2022
The Stanley Theatre



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