Elf the Musical. Book by Thomas Meehan & Bob Martin. Music by Matthew Sklar. Lyrics by Chad Beguelin. The Dominion Theatre, 268 Tottenham Court Road, London W1 to 7 January 2023. 3***. William Russell.

Based on the movie starring Will Ferrell, which is one of Hollywood’s most popular Christmas films, this stage version is slightly different but tells the basic story of Buddy, the Elf who as a baby ended up in Santa’s sack and was brought up with the elves in Santa’s factory at the North Pole. Eventually the monster elf discovers he is really a human and goes back to New York to try to find his family. The show either warms the cockles of your heart or makes you wish the Grinch would turn up and stop all the happy holidays stuff being performed on stage. But there is no denying that it is done very well indeed, has lovely sets by Tim Goodchild, amusing choreography by Liam Steel, a first rate band, a very hard working ensemble, and at the end snow falls from on high and Santa in his sleigh flies out over the audience. The lead actors do what is required of them perfectly well but I found it hard to warm to Simon Lipkin’s Buddy and the message about Christmas being about happy families and holidays does pall rather – Christmas is about much, much more.

This is a return visit for the show but the special effects apart – and things flying out over the audience are pretty old hat these days – it has no heart. This is one of those buy the souvenirs shows – Buddy’s hat is quite popular. The songs are tuneful enough but none would send you out into the night humming it. As an introduction to theatre for the young it is a pretty plastic and cliched affair but Tom Chambers makes Buddy’s reluctant Dad Walter’s change of heart effectively, Rebecca Lock sings well as Buddy’s step mother and Kim Ismay has some nice moment’s as Walter’s tough secretary. As Santa Claus, who narrates the story. Nicholas Pound yo ho hos well but has some dreadful local English jokes to crack which clash with the fact that it is all taking place in the Big Apple.

Buddy: Simon Lipkin.

Jovie: Georgina Castle.

Walter Hobbs: Tom Chambers.

Emily Hobbs: Rebecca Lock.

Deb: Kim Ismay.

Santa Ckaus/Mr Greenway: Nicholas Pound.

Manager: Dermot Canavan.

Ensembles: Evonee Bentley-Holder, Jade Davies, Francis Foreman, Kyle Cox, Bethan Downing, Morgan Gregory, Ellis Linford-Pill, Theo Reece, Ryan Jupp, Shane O’Riordan. Chloe Saunders, Katie Warsop, Natalie Woods.

Buddy’s step brother: Dexter Barry, Alfie Morwood, Logan Clark, Frankie Treadaway.

Director: Philip Wm. McKinley.

Choreographer: Liam Steel.

Set & Costumes Designer: Tim Goodchild.

Lighting Designer: Patrick Woodroffe.

Sound Designer: Gareth Owen.

Video Designer: Ian William Galloway.

Musical Director: Alan Williams.

Production Photographs: Mark Senior.

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