Elf the Musical

Theatre, Musicals
2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

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The stage adaptation of Hollywood film 'Elf', which starred Will Ferrell, arrives in the West End in time for Christmas.

‘Elf the Musical’ has already experienced the media equivalent of being put on Santa’s naughty list, after arts hacks got the hump with its monumental top price ticket of £240 – the most expensive West End show of all time.

But if the real meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth and eternal life of unfettered capitalism, then ‘Elf’ tickets tally with that nicely. And to state the bleeding obvious, lots of things in London – in fact MOST things in London – are grotesquely overpriced, so why single out ‘Elf’? (It’s worth noting that tickets in the gods do start at £30, down from £58 after the outcry).

It’s a far from cheap-looking show, and my usually sullen inner child erupted with delight about 15 minutes - or £25 – in, when the giant screen backdrop turned into a glistening forest of candy canes, as hero Buddy the Elf started his long journey from the North Pole to New York.

A hit on Broadway, ‘Elf’ is an adaptation of the Will Ferrell film of the same name, a droll seasonal romp in which the hulking comic shone as a clumsy, lummoxy human raised amongst diminutive Christmas elves. Discovering his true heritage, he heads to the Big Apple to track down his bastard capitalist father. Hilarity ensues.

Or it did in the film. The real problem with this ‘Elf’ is the casting. I don’t mean the fact that the entire 25-ish-strong ensemble of a show set in one of the most racially diverse cites on the planet is white – though that is pretty weird. I mean Ben Forster as Buddy. The ‘Superstar’ winner is a talented musical theatre actor who can hold the vast Dominion stage. But he’s also a fairly diminutive chap – he looks a bit like an elf, frankly, and it kills a major plank of the film’s comedy stone dead. His nominal co-star is Girls Aloud’s Kimberley Walsh, who is decent enough as Buddy’s grouchy love interest Jovie, but it’s a tiny part – far smaller than Zooey Deschanel’s in the film – and more or less leaves Forster to carry the entire thing.

There is a bright-eyed peppiness to director-choreographer Morgan Young’s production that is undeniably winsome, it looks lovely (kudos to video designer Ian William Galloway) and if you’re taking your kids they’ll almost certainly have fun, assuming the tickets don’t come out of their pocket money. But the adult crossover appeal that the film had is all but gone, the songs aren’t much cop, and those prices really should come with an elf and safety warning, amirite?

RECOMMENDED: More Christmas shows in London 

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