Let the Holidays Begin – ‘Elf the Musical’ is Pure Fun for All Ages

Theatre 121’s vibrant Elf – The Musical opened to enthusiastic crowds this weekend at the Woodstock Opera House in Woodstock, IL, where it will play through December 5. The cheers and applause that rained down on the talented troupe of players was more than well deserved.

Under the skillful direction of Roger Zawacki, and boasting an engaging cast of 20, Elf – The Musical is just what you need to put you in the holiday spirit. You are guaranteed to leave with a smile on your face.

We all love A Christmas Carol, but I personally welcome it when theater companies offer alternatives during the holiday season. Little Women, for instance, is a wonderful family drama that can be presented during the holidays for maximum dramatic affect. But for those looking for something light that is sure to be fun for the whole family, your money will be well spent buying tickets to this production of Elf – The Musical.

And, you might be surprised how affordable an afternoon or evening at the theater can be. We’ve spent two years away from theater, we should treasure every opportunity we have to enjoy quality theater now that it is back. This is a fine example of high-quality musical theater at its best.

Elf- The Musical is based on the 2003 blockbuster comedic film written by David Berenbaum and starring Saturday Night Live great Will Ferrell. The stage version features a book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, music by Matthew Sklar, and lyrics by Chad Beguelin.

Like the film, the stage musical follows the story of Buddy the Elf. As a baby, Buddy had crawled into Santa’s sack one Christmas eve. When he was discovered back at the North Pole, Buddy was taken in and raised by the elves. But at the age of 30, Buddy learns he is human and decides to seek out his human father in New York City.

While Elf- The Musical boasts a very talented ensemble, the success of the show relies primarily on the likability and talents of the actor playing Buddy. For the Theatre 121 mounting, Dylan Thomas is a charismatic bundle of joy that you can’t help but adore. There is a great deal of Jim Parsons to Thomas’s characterization. Thomas is fun and funny and downright charming – like a four-year-old in a batman costume.

The gruff, no-nonsense father Buddy the Elf finds when he ventures to NYC is Walter Hobbs – a children’s book publisher woefully out of touch with the children he is supposed to be gearing his books towards. Walter is played by the wonderfully adept Travis Greuel, who shows us a complete character arc over the course of the show.

Walter’s wife Emily (Buddy’s stepmother) is played by the engaging Jordan Rakittke, and their son Michael is played by Brody Tyner. Rakittke and Tyner have two duets that will knock your socks off. Both Rakittke and Tyner have dynamic voices that carry to the back of the house and will curl your toes.

In New York, Buddy not only finds his father, he also goes on his very first human date. Kelsey Bennett plays Buddy’s love interest Jovie. Bennett has a gorgeous voice and a sparkle in her eye that you can’t ignore.

David Gasior is the other standout in the cast. Gasior plays the dual roles of Santa and Walter’s boss at the publishing company. He presents two completely different characters, both fun to sit back and be entertained by.

Rounding out the cast are Corey Atkinson, Gus Calhoun, Jessica Falco, Brendan Gaughan, Aaron Gomez, Chris Griffin, JD Harshbarger, Amanda Haugk, Geoffrey Lindow, Kenzie Perry, Tony Rakittke, Addyson Rebman, Savannah Thomas, and Kelsey Waughon.

Parents and children will equally enjoy this production. Fans of the movie won’t be disappointed, but will leave the Woodstock Opera House as fans of this cast as well.

Music direction by Alayna Devar is exceptional. The orchestra features Barb Neely on piano; a wicked horn and reed section in Brian Anderson, Kristin Scheets, Carolyn Awe, Karen Stein, and Lexi Hodory; and a stellar rhythm section of Emmerich Parapart on drums and Helen Bozig on bass.  

Choreography by Bridget Kuehnert is engaging and appropriately peppy to suit the playfulness of the score. Costumes by Carol Foreman and assistant Trudie Dryer add to the overall professional quality of this community theatre production. Stage manager Janelle Graf and technical coordinator Tom Hermanson do a standout job keeping everything running smoothly.

Elf – The Musical plays Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through December 5, 2021, at the Historic Woodstock Opera House in the heart of Woodstock, IL. If you are coming from out of town, there’s plenty to enjoy. Make a day of it. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 PM. Sunday matinees are at 2 PM. For tickets visit www.WoodstockOperaHouse.com or call the box office at (815) 338-5300.

Proof of vaccination must be presented for entrance and masks must be worn at all times. Refer to the Woodstock Opera House website for specific policy details.

Peace. Love. Trust.

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