Monday, November 14, 2022

Elf the Musical—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego


The BIGGEST little Miracle

    This heart-warming musical is directed by Thomas C. Graff, songs by Matthew Skylar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin and book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin (based on the film, Elf, by David Berenbaum).  Musical direction and conducting by Cyndy Ramsey-Rier and choreography by Terry Brock and Cherie Price.  It is playing through December18th at their space, 368 S. State St. in Lake Oswego (free parking lot in the rear).  For more information on the show and Covid policies, go to their website www.lakewood-center.org or call 503-635-3901.

    Tis the Season for stories of hope and good cheer…and, boy, do we need that now!  There are basically two perspectives:  The Biblical view, with the birth of Christ, and the Santa Claus slant, with merry, ole St. Nick.  But the three most popular films deal with Redemption, as in, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” Dickens’s, “A Christmas Carol,” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”  Also, they all have one more thing in common:  The importance of Family, whether Holy, Jolly or, in the case of, Elf, perhaps, the meaning of the ancient philosophy, it takes a whole village to raise a child…thus, Family, in the most Universal sense of the word!

    Once upon a time, on Christmas Eve, while jolly Santa (Mark Pierce) was delivering presents at one household, a baby climbed into his toy sack and was inadvertently whisked off to the North Pole.  Thirty years later, cheerful but na├»ve, Buddy (Jeremy Anderson-Sloan), the human elf, has a yearning to find his real family and walks thousands of miles to New York City to find his father, Walter Hobbs (Jeremy Southard), who is a rather grumpy executive of a Children’s book publishing company, Greenway.

     He has a rude awaking, though, when he discovers people do not believe in Santa, or Christmas, other than in the “commercial” sense.  Walter’s wife, Emily (Sophie MacKay) is a pleasant enough lady and her daughter, Michael (Stella MacKay), is a nerd with no thought of the magic of Christmas.  The employees at Walter’s business including Deb (Aurora C. Gooch), an executive assistant, and the big honcho himself, Greenway (Michael Streeter), have little regard for Christmas, other than the monies it generates for them.  Even Buddy’s new love interest, Jovie (Camille Trinka), is rather a glum young lady.

    But don’t you all know, this will just change dramatically with the entrance of innocence in the guise of Buddy, Santa and his elves, and the changed hearts of citizens via dance, music and songs.  Yes, this seems like a familiar, feel-good, seasonal story (and it is) but the cast, musicians, dancers, crew, all dust off this familiar tale and through their own Magic, give it a Life that goes well beyond the pages of a bedtime story, which bursts through that fourth wall and permeates the audience with warmth and good will and seems to say, “God Bless Us Every One!”

    The MacKay’s are real, as mother and daughter, and you can sense the true family ties within them.  Southard plays just the right balance between a grouchy old man and the inner life of a lonely soul, just waiting to have his bubble burst.  Trinka waffles between being a hardened urbanite and the waifish child beneath, just waiting to be discovered.  And Gooch’s Deb, becomes transformed, but you sense, Streeter’s Greenway never will, as Corporate Greed will, unfortunately, always have its oily hands around the throat of Middle America.

    But Anderson-Sloan is Amazing!  In my opinion, better than the film, Buddy.  He actually oozes charm, goodness and the child-like innocence that is too often lost in adults and much too soon, as well.  If he is this year’s poster child for the Christmas Spirit on stage, we have much to be thankful for!  Also, Terry Brock (co-choreographer) as the Macy’s store manager, almost steals the show with her tap-dancing number, with the ensemble.  And a special shout-out to the chorus/ensemble, they are truly the heart of a production, as they are here, too!

    Ramsey-Rier and her band of renown are splendid and they do Not make the fatal flaw that often orchestras do in a musical, they do NOT over power the actors/singers…Bravo!  and Brock and Price as choreographers have some terrific numbers and an ensemble of dancers to match.  And Graff as chief magic maker on this production, out does himself.  A long-time teacher/director/performer in the Portland area, his obvious talent shows brilliantly here (they couldn’t have chosen a better director for this project),  “May he Live Long and Prosper!”

    One more thing, just as an exercise in Imagination, before too long, sit down and write a letter to Santa of hopes and dreams for Christmas--that you can do for others in the coming year.  And write them in long-hand, too, (if you still remember how to do that).  Then send it off to Santa at the North Pole, but keep a list for yourself, and next year at this time, see how much of it came true.

    I highly recommend this show.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

--DJS