The Chemainus Theatre Festival’s Christmas production this year is utterly charming.
Elf will have you leaving the theatre feeling warm and energized with the Christmas spirit — and looking up to the stars for Santa’s magic sleigh that runs on belief rather than flying reindeer (thanks PETA).
The cast for this show is excellent with Andrew Cohen leading the way as the ever-cheerful but terribly vulnerable Buddy the Elf. He projects just the right amount of naive charm to have us rooting for him, even when he gets himself into horribly awkward situations.
Timothy E. Brummund as his reluctant father Walter Hobbes is also just the right mix of stern and intimidating boss and the marshmallow centre that’s buried really, really (really) deep down.
Sarah Carlé as Buddy’s stepmom Emily Hobbes and Reuben Broadway as his half-brother Michael are particularly good here, humanizing Walter and providing a bright spot in Buddy’s rather disastrous introduction to New York.
Alison MacDonald as Jovie, Buddy’s love interest, is also completely charming as the somewhat jaded-by-life, practical young woman who wishes she still believed in dreams coming true.
All of the supporting cast are equally strong, with Kate Blackburn earning a special nod as Walter’s secretary. The ensemble is rounded out by Scott Carmichael, Erik Gow, Richard McBride, Sarina Sorensen and Scott Walters, who all have their moments to shine.
And let’s not forget Hal Kerbes as Santa Claus, who is a delight.
The only glitch in this otherwise slick production was that some of the solo vocals were not loud enough and the audience was left straining to hear some of the cast members.
Cohen appeared to be the only one wearing a mic, but either it wasn’t working at all, or it wasn’t turned up nearly loud enough to carry Cohen’s voice effectively throughout the theatre on opening night. Since he’s the main character, it was particularly problematic — but easily fixed.
Also notably too quiet was Brummund — put a mic on him, guys! We fully expect the crew to have fixed this problem as the run continues.
The actors with the stronger voices — most notably Carlé and MacDonald, with an honourable mention to the young Broadway — were excellent and managed to offset some of the weaker spots. Given that these three carried a lot of the singing in the second half, the music was more effective here.
MacDonald, in particular, has a really hilarious solo as the second act opens that’s not to be missed.
But on the whole, in spite of the volume issue, I found the music, which was fun and upbeat, with clever lyrics, to be very engaging and hummable as I left the theatre.
And I can’t leave out praise for the choreography. There’s a good bit of dancing in this show and it looks really polished.
This would be a great one to take the kids to, if you’re looking for a family outing. The kids will love the music and the basic story, and there’s a level of sophistication in the lyrics and dialogue that is engaging for the adults.
So get your tickets now; we hear they’re selling out fast. Go to chemainustheatre.ca or call 1-800-565-7738.