“Make it Sparklejollytwinklejingley”
First things first, it’s a really poor show on behalf of those in charge of this production at the Lowry that there was no announcement or any mention of the fact that the understudy for the main part was on. Not for any sniffy reason about wanting to see Ben Forster but rather that it denied Colin Burnicle his spot in the limelight on the first occasion that he got to play the role of Buddy the Elf.
I don’t think Burnicle will mind me saying he had an understandably slightly nervy beginning but he soon settled into the green felt boots of Buddy, working a slightly more frantic Jim Carrey-esque vibe than one might expect from a role originated on screen by Will Ferrell but it was one that worked. And he connected well with former Atomic Kitten Liz McLarnon as his putative love interest Juvie, as under-developed a part it is.
Elf premiered in the UK a couple of years ago and when it made it to the West End’s Dominion, I saw it (review here) and I have to say that its rather old-school charms won me over. So I was happy to revisit it en famille this winter with three-quarters of its leading cast still intact – Forster joined by Joe McGann as Walter and Jessica Martin as Emily once again – and the latter two clearly having a ball once again.
Of the newer cast members, Lori Haley Fox is hilarious as charismatic office worker Deb and Graham Lappin does well as the Store Manager but Brookside’s Louis Emerick didn’t quite nail his comic timing as the narrating Santa Claus. And Morgan Young’s direction suffers from an over-long first half (a good 80 minutes) with perhaps too much of the festive magic packed into the second half, though properly magic it is with snowfalls and sleigh rides to wonder at. Good fun but hardly essential.