Stage & Dance

'Elf' goes from classic movie to classic musical

Daniel Patrick Smith plays the title role in 'Elf - The Musical' playing through Nov. 16 at the Lexington Opera House.
Daniel Patrick Smith plays the title role in 'Elf - The Musical' playing through Nov. 16 at the Lexington Opera House.

Hollywood tries to put out Christmas movies every year in the hopes they will become holiday classics. However, only a select few have won the hearts of the viewing public so much that they become ritualistic and required viewing each holiday season.

The 2003 comedy Elf, starring Will Ferrell, has become one of those movies. But the film pulled off another rare entertainment feat: It was adapted into a hit Broadway musical.

Now, Elf: The Musical is hitting the road and bringing a hilarious, light-hearted blast of holiday cheer to cities across America. It comes to the Lexington Opera House to open the 2014-15 Broadway Live season with five performances Friday through Sunday.

The plot of Elf: The Musical is almost a mirror image of the original film. It centers on Buddy the Elf, a young orphan who stows away in Santa's bag of toys and ends up at the North Pole. Believing he is an elf, he grows up to be both a larger-than-life fan of all things Christmas and a significantly larger, clumsier physical presence than his fellow elves. He eventually finds out that he is human and returns to New York City to find his father. Once he finds him, he realizes that he and a lot of other New Yorkers are lacking a belief in Christmas, which is what powers Santa's sleigh. He makes it his mission to get his family and the entire city in the Christmas spirit.

Elf: The Musical made its Broadway debut in 2010 thanks to some top-notch Broadway pedigree, with the book written by Tony Award winners Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone) with songs by Tony Award nominees Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguielin (The Wedding Singer). The musical would later hit the road for its first touring production in 2012.

Daniel Patrick Smith is playing the lead role of Buddy the Elf in this production, and he admits he has some pretty big, pointed shoes to fill.

"I've always looked up to Will Ferrell as a physical comedian and an actor," he says. "I've always wanted to portray the role before finding out anybody besides Will was going to do it."

Smith beat out countless actors for the role of Buddy, and even though he hasn't had any real-life interactions with tiny toy builders or old Saint Nick, he says the part is definitely in his wheelhouse.

"I definitely relate to the character in that I try to be as positive and cheery as can be," Smith says. "In the musical, (Buddy) gets to dance and goof around, which I very much enjoy doing."

Smith says the audience will enjoy Elf: The Musical for both the film's funniest parts and characteristics that only a Broadway-sized musical can pull off. Those who attend will definitely hear the harsh insult of "cotton-headed ninnymuggins," and see someone chow down on some spaghetti drenched in maple syrup as well as the epic battle between Buddy and a mall Santa.

As for the production's musical numbers, it definitely doesn't resemble the barrage of Christmas carols people are used to hearing this time of year.

"I think they do a really great job of having a vast array of types of music," Smith says. "There are some jazzy songs, there are some bluesy songs, there are some fun, big Broadway numbers as well as some funny pop songs. I think the show has a little bit of everything."

Something else Elf: The Musical will bring to Lexington is a taste of the New York City Christmas experience. One particularly ambitious number, Sparkyjollytwinklejingly, takes place at the Manhattan Macy's department store, where Buddy turns a late-night decorating session with unenthusiastic employees into a festive free-for-all of ribbons, presents and bows.

"It's really fun, but it takes a lot of focus for the actors," Smith says. "The dancers are amazing. They make it look easy. At the end of the day, we have a lot of fun doing it and I think the audience can tell."

Smith is excited to be a part of his first Broadway touring production and is thrilled to bring a Broadway show to people who may not necessarily make the trip to the Big Apple. But he is particularly glad to be a playing Buddy in Elf: The Musical; the themes his character and the story deliver are definitely gifts to the audience, he says.

"Most people when they see (Buddy) just assume that he's crazy and they try to fix him when really, at the end of the day, he's figured it out and he has this special quality that people wish they had, that positivity and that Christmas spirit," he says. "I think the full message about family and love and acceptance is what really makes it a Christmas classic."