The Will Ferrell movie comedy Elf is a shortish, silly, but frequently funny trifle about a human, raised at the North Pole, who returns to civilization to see out his father and bring the Christmas spirit to a cynical world. It’s a corny story, made palatable by Ferrell’s guileless performance as a 30-year-old man still captivated by the ridiculously of the holidays.
I went into the stage musical, now at Fair Park, with a fair degree of skepticism. Elf-the-movie rested on Ferrell’s shoulders; how would Elf The Musical fare without him? Actually, quite well. Unlike the disappointing slate of other recent stage adaptations of Christmas movies (White Christmas, A Christmas Story), Elf maintains the perfect amount of whimsy, buoyed by Daniel Patrick Smith’s infectiously joyous performance as Buddy, the puppy-dogish pest with a heart of candycanes.
The book, by Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone), adds just the correct amount of knowing winks to the audience — about the inanity of the plot, of current society, even of musicals themselves (also a trait of Chaperone) — and the score, although not peppered with tons of memorable earworms, is jaunty and fun. It’s a delightful theatrical trifle, all warm-hearted energy and family-friendly messages.