REVIEW: Elf the Musical (The Lowry, Salford Quays)

Photo credit: James Everett
Photo credit: James Everett
Upstaged Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Based on the 2003 film starring Will Ferrell – many will already be familiar with the Christmas family favourite, the story of the orphan child, Buddy who ends up being transported back to the North Pole after unknowingly crawling into Santa’s bag of presents. Buddy then ends up living back at Santa HQ where he is brought up by Santa and his elves, completely unaware that he is actually a human.

Now in his thirties, towering over his fellow toy-makers and lacking the innate toy-making ability of a real elf – Buddy realises the truth and sets off on a mission, with Santa’s full backing, to find his birth father in New York City.

Starring Ben Forster as Buddy, this show is visually very impressive – lavish scenery, video footage of cityscapes and superb 3D flying effects with a sledge that manages to hover over the front stalls – everything looks very slick. However, it’s the human element that really adds a true Christmas sparkle – the chorus of dancing elves and the delivery of the familiar comedy from the film. Ben Forster gives a strong performance as Buddy, showcasing a wonderful singing voice and perfectly capturing the innocence, charm and silliness of his character. Liz McClarnon shines brightly as Jovie, with a beautiful singing voice, it’s a shame she doesn’t feature a little bit more.

Billed as a family show suitable for ages five and up, Thing One and Thing Two (and myself if I’m honest) were fidgeting a little towards the back end of Act One. The show is really quite lengthy and would benefit from some cuts.

The score is pleasant but quite generic Broadway – but the band, headed up by Musical Director Jeremy Wootton is a complete triumph and makes some ground in delivering Christmas cheer.

This is a high quality, no-expense-spared production with a strong central performance, some wonderful comic moments and some superb tap-dancing sequences from the company. However, the lack of sentiment, which is often considered a staple ingredient for successful Christmas shows, left me feeling quite cold.

-Kristy Stott