If you’ve read my blog for at least 2 minutes, you’ll know I am the mother of 2 teenage daughters. Although I have kind, happy teenage daughters, they obviously have their moments of jaded-whatever-who cares-enui. Now that school is out for the holiday week and we have some extra time together here and there, I am being reminded of the smiles and fun and seeing a little less of the other stuff.
I have the opportunity day-to-day to spend more time with my younger daughter. So when I was offered 2 tickets at the Straz Center to see “elf”, a touring version of the Broadway musical, I thought it would be fun to take my older daughter and get in a little extra bonding time. She certainly has more jaded moments than her sister due to both age and personality, so I wasn’t sure if she would even want to go, or if it would all seem too candy cane sweet to her.
She wanted to go. And even after a friend of hers invited her out for the same night, she turned down the invitation to keep her plans with me. I, in turn, agreed to not embarrass her by wearing the velvet elf hat we have from when she was an elf in “Miracle on 34th Street”. (I did, however, wear the hat over the weekend when volunteering at the Women’s Half Marathon with Denise and Brian at the mile 10 crazy hat table, below.)
When I brought up our dedication to that production while walking from our car to the Straz Center, Alice referred to it as “selling our souls to Santa”. It was time consuming!
Anyhooo…. we got all cute and drove into Tampa. I knew there was a Tampa Bay Bloggers dinner meet up beforehand, but I wasn’t able to leave work early enough to make that. Instead, I let Alice drive the first quarter of the trip, and I took over before we hit the highway. I’m not ready to do night time highway driving with her yet. But letting her drive a while is always good practice and reminds her that I don’t think she’s 6 years old anymore.
Out tickets were on hold in Will Call, and there we saw at least 5 other Tampa Bay Bloggers. Greetings and hugs were shared, and as we headed into the theatre we even bumped into the big guy himself – Santa! The ushers were friendly and helpful, and warned us that Act 1 was 80 minutes long, in case we needed to visit the restroom. “Thanks mom!” I said. Alice laughed.
Our seats were up in the back of the 2nd level, but well centered, and not bad at all. I only wish I had better eyes (or binoculars) to see more costume details from up there.
The overture was short, which was nice considering we weren’t familiar with the music, and because they started 10 minutes late, and the theatre was full of little kids up past their bedtimes. It was reminiscent of “Need a little Christmas”. At first, the musical closely followed the movie – the 2003 holiday hit starring Will Farrell as a human raised in the North Pole by elves, who finds out as an adult that he is actually human. We even got a glimpse of the narwhal when Buddy the elf decides to go find his father in New York City! The elves were regular height people on their knees, which let the audience know right off the bat that this show wasn’t going to take itself too seriously. The songs were big, bold and feel-good. The colors were bright and sticky, like exploded Jolly Ranchers.
Santa narrated the show, and used an iPad and TiVo.
Many favorite lines from the movie script were in the musical as well. When Buddy becomes a Santa’s Little Helper elf at the mall, the mall manager tells him to make working his “new favorite”. And the 5 food groups ending with syrup were present. The burping scene was not. But in its place was some adult language that was completely unnecessary. Straz even had a warning on their website about adult language – crap, bitchy, ass… none of these words needed to be present, but they were. Feel-good holiday shows with audiences full of 7 year olds really can do without that.
Buddy (Matt Kopec) was wide-eyed and full of wonder. He skipped elf-like and bent-kneed with curly shoes, and could probably play a mean Peter Pan. And his singing voice was awesome. He really drew me in. Next, when he met his dad for the first time, and he is surrounded by office staff, we were introduced to Deb, the Office Manager (Jen Bechter, right). She was my favorite actress and character in the show. She was buxom and slap happy, and made sly boozing references. She shimmied till we could see that the lining of her skirt was a contrasting color (nice touch), and sang like nobody’s business.
When I saw the movie Elf, I was wowed by Jovie. Zooey Deschanel played the emo-esque city girl with low expectations and no holiday spirit just perfectly. Her voice was a wonder – in fact I prefer her Elf singing to her record label career.
But the Jovie in this production (Kate Hennies) didn’t quite do it for me. She was cute and sang wonderfully, but was lackluster. Even her solo performance warning single women everywhere that it is, “clear as a jinglebell, don’t wall in love with an elf”, would have been more believable if sung by Bridget Jones.
As much as Jovie blended into the background, she was completely overshadowed by the singing of Buddy’s stepmom and stepbrother – who were a true delight to listen to and had great chemistry. Their voices blended beautifully, and the maturity of that kid (Connor Barth) on stage was very visible.
The sets were simple and pretty. There was no crazy technology or anything flying into the audience. It was more old-school, with a wonderful, live orchestra pit. I was so excited to see skating in Rockefeller Center as one of the sets! The book was co-written by Thomas Meehan, who wrote “Annie,” the 1977 Tony Award winner for best musical – and the show that stole my heart at age 6. I could see some similarities in the pacing and musicality between “Elf” and “Annie”.
The real magic happened after the show. Alice and I walked back to my mommy-mobile in the parking lot humming sparklejollytwinklejingley, and she asked if I knew which radio station played Christmas carols. Once she found the right station, she wanted to sing the whole way home. (note: we’re not even Christian…) After getting home, she baked gingerbread cookies until 11:30pm.
Alice loves gingerbread cookies for 3 reasons.
- They are yummy!
- We visit Grandma for Christmas every year, and they often baked them together when Alice was little
- Alice is a runner, and the gingerbread man’s motto is “Run, run as fast as you can!”
If you are in the Tampa Bay area, don’t be a Cotton-Headed-Ninny-Muggins, get your tickets now, the show is in town til the 25th. Next stop is Ft Meyers for the 27th-December 2nd and then onto St Paul, MN. To see what’s next at the Straz, check out their busy calendar. Attending live theater is a great memory-making event! For the official “Elf” website, visit elfthemusicalontour.com or like it on Facebook.
Elf The Musical on Tour has partnered with Metropolitan Ministries for a holiday food drive. Save $20 off select seats for the Wednesday and Friday performances of Elf The Musical with the donation of a non-perishable food item, now through show time at the Straz Center ticket office. This offer is valid for seats in price levels 1 and 2 and is subject to availability. One discounted ticket per donated food item, limit of four discounted tickets. Not applicable to prior sales. Cannot be combined with any other offer.
Disclosure: I received 2 free tickets to the show in exchange for this review. All opinions are 100% mine – because if I learned anything from this show, it was “to thine own elf be true.”