ELF: The Musical
Rating: ★★★★
Venue: Dominion Theatre, London
Cast: Simon Lipkin, Georgina Castle, Tom Chambers, Rebecca Lock, Dermot Canavan, Kim Ismay, Nicholas Pound and Logan Clark

ELF is the funny and charming tale of Buddy, who mistakenly crawled into Santa’s bag as a baby and was raised as an elf! Way too tall and not so great at his job, Buddy is the North Pole’s biggest misfit… and knows he’ll never belong. When Santa tells him the truth, Buddy heads to New York to find his birth father (who turns out to be quite high on the Naughty List). After causing some merry mayhem in Manhattan, Buddy finally discovers the gift of family and falls in love. And when Santa’s sleigh crashes in Central Park, it’s Buddy who finds a way to save Christmas forever!

I'll preface this review by letting you all know that I'm a self-proclaimed Grinch. Christmas is most definitely not my favourite time of year and I'm very rarely filled with Christmas spirit. However, I left the Dominion Theatre last night with a tear in my eye and a heart full of Christmas joy. I guess my story really did follow that of the Grinch!

I think we're all familiar with the story of Buddy the Elf. Elf is the tale of Buddy, who discovers he's in fact a human; not an elf, like he's grown up believing. At this revelation, he sets out to meet his dad in New York city and makes the arduous trip from his current home, the North Pole. Buddy and his dad aren't quite what the other was expecting and our Christmas story of reconnecting, family and love begins. 

With this show in particular, the success relies solely on how the audience members connect to Buddy the Elf. While I love Will Ferrell's portrayal of Buddy, I thought Simon Lipkin's was even better. Lipkin's version isn't quite as overdramatic, but he captures the essence of Buddy perfectly. The innocence, the humour, the wit - Lipkin has it all. It's very rare that a singular actor carries a show, but he does just that. Buddy is, no doubt, the heart of the show - and rightly so. I particularly loved Buddy's ways of getting his dad's attention; those moments certainly received the most laughs from me!

Kim Ismay as Deb and Georgina Castle as Jovie were particular scene stealers. Castle's voice is astonishingly good, while Ismay's one liners are unmatched. The relationship between Emily (Lock) and Michael (Clark) as mother and son was simply beautiful. The chemistry the pair had onstage was the most believable of the night.

I also particularly enjoyed the idea that Walter wasn't a Scrooge, but rather just an overworked father, who was just trying to give his family the best life; which Tom Chambers portrayed expertly. 

With the Dominion stage being so large, the sets needed to be showstopping and all kinds of whimsical - and I'm happy to report that they were! From Macy's department store, to the North Pole, to the Rockefeller Center; the sets and staging were simply breath-taking. As expected, they were so much fun and a read explosion of red and green. 

I hadn't heard any of the soundtrack before my visit, but I'm finding myself humming to a few songs from last night! Standout numbers for me were Sparklejollytwinklekingley and The Story of Buddy. Another favourite was I'll Believe in You (sung by Lock and Clark), which was both heart wrenching and relatable.

While there's many positives of the production, there were a few niggles I had throughout. Some of the leading cast members kept losing their American accents, which became quite distracting. And there were a few scenes which felt quite clunky and didn't fit with the general feel of the show. One such number was Nobody Cares About Santa. This jazzy number set in a Chinese restaurant felt completely out of place.

However, the ending of the show is one of the most magical moments of theatre I've ever experienced. When the theatre fills with snow and the Christmas spirit returns to New York (no scene spoilers here!), I felt choked up and finally felt that the Christmas season was upon us.

Whether young or old, Buddy or Grinch, ELF is the perfect way to celebrate the Christmas season with your family. While it isn't perfect, it captures the heart of the festive period and is a feel-good, cheesy masterpiece. 

You can book tickets to see ELF: the Musical at the Dominion Theatre, London until January 2023, here.

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