Christmas appears to be starting earlier year on year, and call me a Grinch but the excitement involved in this time of year seems to be fading the older I become. However, one Christmas tradition I look forward to each year is sitting down with my sister and watching the 2003 hit film Elf.

With this in mind, I was delighted to discover Tony Award winners Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin have adapted this much-loved film into a stage musical, much to the delight of children and adults everywhere! Elf: The Musical has now begun a limited run at The Lowry Theatre in Salford, and if last night’s performance is anything to go by, it will be sure to bring in packed audiences of all ages.

The brilliant concept of a young, orphan child growing up in the North Pole as an ‘elf’ is bound to provide hours of comedy and slapstick moments. As the child grows more and more in height he is forced to face the truth that perhaps he does not belong in the North Pole with Santa, and perhaps he should find his real family (the whole time in a ridiculous costume with bundles of Christmas cheer!). For this run of the show, Ben Forster (winner of ITV ‘Superstar) reprises the famous role of Buddy the Elf. Forster has definitely made the character his own, and didn’t rely on mirroring the original film’s portrayal of the role. The commitment to the loveable ‘elf’ was outstanding from Forster, with his level of energy being infectious and bringing constant smiles to everyone watching him. His vocal ability lifted the original musical numbers to a new height, and he certainly highlighted the impressive singing voice that won him the ITV competition back in 2012.

Another familiar face in the animated cast was that of Liz McClarnon (Atomic Kitten) in her role of Jovie. She and Forster provided various softer, warm-hearted moments in this chaotic tale. Every performer on stage contributed to the success of the evening and clearly treasured their experience of Elf: The Musical. Lori Haley Fox stole every moment she was on stage with her hilarious adaptation of the office secretary Deb, whilst Lochlan White stole my heart in his role of Michael Hobbs as he sung the true meaning of Christmas, two excellent performers in an exceptional ensemble.

Perhaps the most impressive element of last night’s performance of Elf: The Musical was the transportation I experienced into the magical world of Buddy the Elf. The projected digital imagery mirrored the classic film, and provided a clear contrast of environments within the North Pole and New York City. Individual set pieces were trucked on, decorated with innovative designs original to the stage musical, providing set designer Tim Goodchild with endless opportunities to encourage the audience to experience that Christmas feeling.  In addition, the ensemble’s energy was infectious as they performed the upbeat musical numbers with full enjoyment. The opening number of ‘Christmas Town’ completely set the precedent for the musical; the fantastic costume designs also by Tim Goodchild were hilarious and those elves were certainly memorable.

Elf: The Musical will continue its run at The Lowry, Salford until Saturday 14th January, and you do not want to miss out! Children of all ages are bound to enjoy this lively musical, and although some moments were slightly too ‘Christmassy’ for my taste the cast certainly proved the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!

Reviewer: Christine-Jane Parkes

Reviewed: 28th November 2017

North West End Rating: ★★★★★

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