Fort Wayne Youtheatre Brings Funny, Touching Elf, Jr. to Holiday Celebration
When the Will Ferrell film Elf arrived in cineplexes around the country in 2003, it was – as oxymoronic as it may sound – an instant classic. Charming, lovable, and featuring some amazing performances from iconic and recognizable actors, the film immediately joined the canon of films that define the holiday season.
Not surprisingly, the story eventually became fodder for a musical version which brings even more to the live experience. Adding Elf, Jr. (a version slightly shortened by the absence of a couple songs) to their Christmas rolodex is Fort Wayne Youtheatre which is staging it this year at First Presbyterian Theater. If you see it this year and enjoy it, expect to see it again down the road.
“We’ve been trying to build a holiday repertoire, three or four shows we can put in a rotation,” said Christopher J. Murphy, assistant director of Fort Wayne Youtheatre and director of Elf, Jr. “We want to establish a tradition like Fort Wayne Ballet has with The Nutcracker. We feel good about Charlie Brown Christmas and Frozen, and this gives us a third thing to do. Theatre people know there’s a dearth of really good Christmas shows so we’re excited to add Elf to our list.”
Murphy is also a long-standing faculty member of Youtheatre and sees in Elf, Jr. not only a great holiday show but also a great learning experience for his cast.
Josiah Beights as Buddy the Elf / Cassandra Smith as Jovie
“It’s a good challenge for our young actors because the characters themselves are not really well drawn. The film really relied on the character actors to bring themselves to this blank slate. James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, Andy Richter – they all brought themselves and what they do so well to their roles so our cast is challenged to do that with their roles.”
With a cast of 40 – one of the largest they’ve had in recent years – Murphy has found some especially remarkable performances for audiences to enjoy during their run.
“It’s an exceptional cast. Josiah Beights as Buddy the Elf is amazing. He’s 16 and is a vet of Youtheatre shows. He played Olaf in Frozen a couple years ago. I think this is the role he was meant to play. I saw him audition and thought ‘I have nothing to teach him here.’”
Elf, Jr. runs December 10-12 and December 17-19. For show times and ticket information, visit fortwayneyoutheatre.org.