Review: 'Elf, The Musical' A Joyful Helping Of Holiday Cheer

By: Amy Tagliaferri

Topics: Local Theater

Alex Perry as Santa and Matt Kohler as Buddy in “Elf, the Musical.” HANNAH MCLAUGHLIN PHOTO

Need a holiday pick-me-up? A jolt of holiday fun? The Cape Cod Theatre Company/Harwich Junior Theatre’s “Elf, the Musical” to the rescue!

What a joyful show! I challenge you to see this show and not leave with a smile. A huge cast of children and adults literally fill the stage with pure joy.

The dynamic duo of Robert Wilder, director and musical director, and Suzette Hutchinson, choreographer, have done it again. They’ve corralled a delightful troupe of actors and added more than a dash of razzle-dazzle to create holiday memories for years to come.

At the center of the show, the core of the production is the phenomenal performance of Matt Kohler as Buddy the elf. Kohler embodies the childlike Buddy and will charm even the Scroogiest person you know. (The accomplishments of this trio extends way beyond their respective roles: Wilder is on the keyboard in the six-piece band, Hutchinson is one of the production stage managers and Kohler is the tech director and assisted in constructing the set.)

This musical version of the popular movie is based on the book by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan, with music by Matthew Skla and lyrics by Chad Bequelin. The story is basically the same with a few adjustments, but the musical numbers are new. Buddy, abandoned as a baby and found in Santa’s toy bag on Christmas Eve, is raised in the North Pole by the elves and thinks he is an elf. That is until Santa reveals he’s human and that his dad is alive and living in New York City.

The music gives the adorable tale a nice glow with lavish song and dance numbers, and sweet ballads. Delivery counts. And Cape favorite Caitlin Mills shines as Buddy’s love interest Jovie. The expressive Mills has a powerhouse voice that provides many of the show’s most poignant moments, such as “Never Fall In Love (With an Elf).” Rick Smith is fabulous as the workaholic father, Walter Hobbs, whose blusterous performance is more than sweetly complemented by his wife (both in the production and in real life) Rebecca Smith. Kelly Martin as their son Michael was a real treat especially when he hit those notes so lucidly. Cara Geradi’s physicality stood out as Hobbs’ secretary and as one of the Santas in “Nobody Cares About Santa.” Alex Perry’s Santa was excellent; no one doubted he was the “real” Santa.

There are multiple numbers where each member of the ensemble composed of children and adults sparkles and astonishes. They are Brendan Cloney, Doug Sivco, David Wallace, Warren Harrington, Kayden Kaser, Brooke McSharry, Angela Burris-Mendoza, Calla Pearson, Oliver Shaw, Io Torellas, Charlotte Kemp, Shae McSharry, Tyler Bracket, Haley Labdon, Yoe Perry, Lorrie Blute, Hannah Reggio, Seamus Sartin, Scarlett O’Malley, Gianna Casale, Maryana Crawley, Alexis Arruda, Perry Gill, Lily Pierce, Annalise Langelier, Emily Carr and Molly Funk. The band (Justin Torellas, Sally Duvall, Tony Stevens, Dan Yeager, Evan Eldredge and Wilder) sounded great. A band with many instruments (piccolo, flute, clarinet, sax, trumpet, drums, keyboard) always adds to a production, and these guys did not disappoint. The set and lighting (both designed by James P. Byrne) were festive, and J Hagenbuckle’s sound design was spot on. Claude Danner’s costumes were perfect; Buddy’s was great and the others were colorful and fun. The audience delighted in Mary Beth Travis’s illustrations projected on a lit screen too. Backstage and up above these folks (Helena Moran as co-stage manager and sound board operator; Shiloh Pabst and Sage Barnes, light board operators, and Jillian Annessi, crew) did their job splendidly.

What better message for the holidays: Be yourself, be kind and embrace your inner child, just like Buddy. Thank you, Nina Schuessler, the theater’s producing artistic director, and CCTC/HJT for this present. We all need it!

"Elf, the Musical"
At Cape Cod Theatre Company/Harwich Junior Theatre, Division Street, West Harwich
Through Jan. 2, Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Extra vacation week shows Monday, Dec. 23 and Thursday, Dec. 26 at 7 p.m.
Information and reservations: 508-432-2002 ext. 2,