- The Stage - https://www.thestage.co.uk -

Elf the Musical review at the Dominion Theatre, London – ‘overpriced, but genuinely charming’

Kimberley Walsh and Ben Forster in Elf the Musical at the Dominion Theatre.

This Christmas musical attraction has already gained notoriety for setting a new record for a top West End price of £240 a ticket. But if that reeks of greed, the show itself exudes far less cynical motives, and is in fact an amiable, good-natured seasonal show, which reconnects audiences with Father Christmas.

“Clap if you believe in fairies,” we’re always asked at Peter Pan to save Tinkerbell; here a lack of belief in Santa causes his sledge to crash-land in Manhattan, and needs people to believe in him again to get it airborne again. Spoiler alert: it does — in quite a spectacular flying display that rivals the car in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which this show’s lead producer Michael Rose also coincidentally first brought to the stage.

Elf, based on the 2003 film of the same name, revolves around a 30-year-old man brought up as one of Santa’s elves (cue a chorus line of them resembling less high-tech versions of the Oompa-Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). After he discovers he is not in fact an elf at all, he sets off from the North Pole to meet his human dad, a publisher of children’s book with offices in the Empire State Building in New York.

It’s yet another parable of parenting, in the long tradition of family musicals from Annie and Mary Poppins to Matilda, but throws in a lot of Christmas cheer and some generic-sounding, formulaic songs. Though Morgan Young’s bright production, that relies heavily on projected scenic backdrops, has its longeurs, it is performed with a knowing panache, particularly by Ben Forster in the title role, who gives it genuine charm, vulnerability and spirit.

Other parts are a bit two-dimensional by comparison, but Kimberley Walsh as the improbably loveless love interest (she’s so ravishing she should have had a queue of suitors), Joe McGann as Elf’s real-life father and Jessica Martin as his perky step-mother are enjoyably likeable.

Verdict
Over-priced Christmas spectacle that delivers on its promise to make you want to believe in Father Christmas again.

Production

Production
Elf the Musical
Venue
Dominion Theatre
City
London
Starts
October 24, 2015
Ends
January 2, 2016
Press night
November 5, 2015
Composer
Matthew Sklar
Book
Thomas Meehan, Bob Martin, based on the New Line Cinema film written by David Berenbaum
Lyrics
Chad Beguelin
Director
Morgan Young
Musical director
Stuart Morley
Choreographer
Morgan Young
Set
Tim Goodchild
Lighting
Tim Lutkin
Sound
Clement Rawling
Costume
Tim Goodchild
Technical
Phil Reno (vocal arrangements), David Chase (dance arrangements), Doug Besterman (orchestration), Ian William Galloway (video design),
Cast includes
Ben Forster, Kimberley Walsh, Joe McGann, Jessica Martin, Jennie Dale, Mark McKerracher, Graham Lappin, Katie Bradley, Charlie Bull, Nicola Coates, Alex Fobbester, Anton Fosh, Charlotte Gale, Francis Haugen, Matt Holland, Tash Holway, Paul Hutton, Mark Iles, Ceili O’Connor, Debbie Paul, Joanna Rennie, Barnaby Thompson, Ed White, Harry Collett, Ilan Galkoff, Noah Key, Ewan Rutherford
Producer
Michael Rose and U-Live in association with the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin present the Theatre Royal Plymouth production
Running time
2 hrs 20 mins