The spirit of the season arrived in splendid holiday style at Halifax’s Neptune Theatre last week, with the Canadian stage premier of the contemporary Christmas classic Elf.
From the opening notes to the closing chorus, lead Mark Uhre (well-cast as the perky, quirky and beloved Buddy the Elf) takes a sure hold of centre stage (and the animated, all-ages audience) and never lets go. And though it might seem a stretch to fill Will Farrell’s swirly shoes, the young actor succeeds at making the role his very own. Lavishly outlandish - and often deliciously outrageous – Uhre’s supple Gumbyesque physique is perfect for the part, twisting and turning across the floor for the entire two-hour performance. If his prowess doesn’t push you to believe, then his powerful voice will.
Uhre is not alone in the action, however, as solid supporting spots from Marty Burt (as Walter Hobbs), Liz Gilroy (as Emily Hobbs) and Blair Irwin (as Buddy’s love interest Jovie) accentuate the already positive.
The ensemble is also engaging – strong, soaring vocals and creative choreography bring the simple stage design to life, putting the focus back where it belongs; on the performances.
Speaking thereof, the cast’s many pint-sized players are cute and quaint in their bite-sized roles. In particular, Elijah Mackenzie Smith holds his own as Buddy’s brother Michael Hobbs.
Mention should also be made of the superb six-piece sonic ensemble, fronted by musical director Patrick Burwell, which at times sounded more like a full Broadway-style orchestra, filling the space with stirring and spirited melodies.
And while the score might still seem unfamiliar to some – the film is less than a decade old – it is only a matter of time before the songs embed themselves into the collective Christmas consciousness.
A fun and festive outing for the family and for children of all ages!
Elf at Neptune Theatre in Halifax until January 6www.neptunetheatre.com