Elf The Musical
Dominion Theatre, London, until January 7
In terms of how it looks, Philip Wm. McKinley’s Elf The Musical is one of
those dime-a-dozen children’s shows that have become an inevitable part
of the festive season. This production has, however, two redeeming features,
in a seditious sense of humour and a superb turn from Tom Chambers as a
The curtain goes up on a fruity-voiced Santa (Nicholas Pound) informing an improbably tall elf named Buddy – Simon Lipkin, sitting on his lap in an improbably green wig – that he’s “a big boy”. There’s a great tradition in children’s entertainment of giving more knowing parents something to giggle about, too, and the show’s writers, Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, and lyricists Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin get this entirely.
The actual elves make a rather terrifying sight. They are actors of average height who are kneeling with little false legs dangling from their chests.
The plot, to the extent there is one, revolves around Santa informing Buddy that he’s not actually a real elf at all, but the son of a New Yorker. This results in Buddy heading to the Big Apple to meet his father, who turns out to be a neurotic PR executive, but they slowly get to form a bond. Chambers has a few more grey hairs than when I remember him in Top Hat and he’s matured into every bit as great an actor as he is a singer.
The sound and video designer Gareth Owen does a lot of the heavy lifting, too, conjuring up a range of different locations, and Liam Steel’s choreography is bracing.
No amount of effort can, however, get over its innate tiredness. It has been staged before and, of course, was originally a film, and this much familiarity always breeds a degree of contempt. At two and a half hours, it also clearly goes well beyond the bedtimes and attention spans of most of the children. It certainly went well beyond mine.