Music by Matthew Sklar
Lyrics by Chad Beguelin
Book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin
Choreography by Connor Gallagher
Directed by Sam Scalamoni
2012-2017 National Tour
The Kennedy Center, Madison Square Garden
Director Sam Scalamoni and his collaborators – particularly choreographer Connor Gallagher, set designer Christine Peters and conductor Samuel Bagala – manage to craft this slight material into a sharp, fast-paced and visually fanciful production.
Act Two… opening with the show’s best number by far, the hilarious Nobody Cares About Santa. A gaggle of department store St. Nicks complain about contemporary society’s lack of wonder as they sing in a glorious bluesy chorus and dance to Connor Gallagher’s witty choreography. Picture a bunch of men in Santa suits effortlessly performing Cabaret, and you get some idea of the rich humor of the piece.
There are tantalizing exceptions, especially an inspired number featuring forlorn department-store Santas. The fake Nicks sing a bluesy, jazzy tune as they lick their wounds over cheap Chinese food, and the stylish angst of Connor Gallagher’s choreography is almost the best part of the joke.
The show’s greatest strength is its choreography. Elf’s dizzy, intense dance scenes are a delight, with something different and dazzling happening on every portion of the stage. Elf has its issues, but the show can’t be accused failing to entertain. It’s a syrupy confection—Buddy himself would approve.
The show also features an exceptionally droll number, set in a Chinese restaurant…wherein a bunch of department store Santas lament the change in the wired children who come to sit on their knees. Actually, there were many moments when my row Tuesday at the Cadillac Palace Theatre let out the kind of titters that must seem a million miles away if you’re reading this at a delay-stricken airport right now, wishing some elf could show up to fly you home. “Elf the Musical” really is very funny. And warm. This particular production…is directed by Sam Scalamoni and choreographed, amusingly, by Connor Gallagher.
Most of the other characters are paler versions of their movie counterparts, taking second place to Christine Peters’ cheery set and choreographer Connor Gallagher’s extremely enthusiastic numbers. (The elves, who dance on their knees to look shorter than Buddy, are particularly impressive.)
Connor Gallagher’s choreography is delightful throughout. From the first big number, “Christmas Town,” when chorus members playing elves dance on their knees to appear just four-feet tall, or during any of the numbers, especially “Nobody Cares About Santa,” where street-corner, bell-ringing, pint-swilling Santas bemoan the lack of holiday spirit.
The choreography was really the best part of the show. There were multiple people moving almost all the time. The big ensemble numbers, including “Christmastown,” “In the Way” and “A Christmas Song,” involved elaborate dances, moving set pieces and props flying through the air (and I didn’t see even one get dropped).
Created by Choreographer Connor Gallagher, the dancing is sublime; between the elves tap routine during the “Finale” and the swinging jazz routine of the Fake Santas during “Nobody Cares About Santa,” Gallagher has his Broadway basics covered. Gallagher conceptualizes sprightly movements for the routines deigned for Buddy the Elf, making him that much more like his namesake, particularly when he’s leaping and twirling about the stage during “Sparklejollytwinklejingley.” The routine for that number exemplifies the frenetic nature of the holiday spirit in retail shopping and really keeps the audience enthralled as the ‘fake elves decorate Macy’s for Christmas.