“Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”
“Santa! I know him! I know him!”
“I just like to smile; smiling’s my favorite.”
“Christmas is more than just Santa Claus” is actor Jeff Hidek’s favorite quote from Buddy the Elf. Hidek will play the hallmark character—first made famous by Will Ferrell in the 2003 film “Elf”—in Thalian Association’s stage adaptation, “Elf: The Musical,” opening Friday night.
The story follows a human raised as an elf in search of his true identity, while spreading the Christmas spirit. He meets a trove of humans along the way, including his love interest Jovie (played by Hunter Wyatt), and his biological dad Walter (Stuart Pike) and stepmom Emily (Jen Hancock). Though, it’s not without missing his North Pole family, including the man in red himself, Santa (James Bowling) who narrates the show—a change from the film’s original narrator, Papa Elf.
Cathy Street is the properties designer, with music direction from Katie Deese, costumes by Jen Iapalucci, and set by Benedict Fancy and Lance Howell. According to Thalian Association’s artistic director, Chandler Davis, the material for the production of “Elf: The Musical” is the same from the well-received Broadway tour—which came to Wilmington a few years ago.
“Obviously there are staging differences because we are at a different venue and we have ordinal choreography by Samantha Mifsud,” she explains,” but the script and music are the same.”
encore caught up with the cast to see who shares Buddy’s affinity for elf culture.
encore (e): So the movie is what a lot of people think of when it comes to “Elf,” but what about this production makes it a standalone holiday show anyone can appreciate?
Jen Hancock: We are huge fans of the movie! The musical follows the movie’s storyline pretty closely, so even if the audience hasn’t seen the movie, they are sure to enjoy the show. The music in the show adds another layer of holiday joy and is sure to put folks in the holiday spirit.
Jeff Hidek: Buddy is still unrelentingly optimistic. His dad’s still in need of a large dose of Christmas spirit. And Jovie still has her guard up and is still not a fan of singing in public.
You certainly don’t have to have seen the film to enjoy “Elf: The Musical.” In fact I’d love as many people as possible to not be comparing me to Will Ferrell! He is a legend. Ultimately this a holiday story that everyone in the family will enjoy. I grew up watching great holiday films like “Miracle on 34th Street” and “White Christmas.” And “Elf” the film has joined that canon because it shares the same DNA. Christmas isn’t about gifts and lights and trees. It’s not even about Santa Claus. It’s about family, faith, love and, sometimes, eating cold spaghetti with syrup.
Kaleb Edward Edley (KE): I think the movie is great but something the play does is give some characters who you don’t see much in the movie more to do, which is great because you get more development and can find more things in these characters that you relate to. And since we get more of these characters, some plot points change a bit so that even if you know the movie by heart, there will be something new in the play for you.
Stuart Pike (SP): I’ve done this enough to know when audiences are in for a treat. There’s a definite rhythm or vibe to strong successful shows. This one’s got it. That is a tribute to Chandler and her creative team and the outstanding cast and artists they’ve assembled.
e: Jeff, what about Buddy’s Christmas spirit can you relate to most? I mean, is smiling really your favorite?
Hidek: I love Buddy. I just wish I had half of his stamina in my real life. He’s always on!
e: That said, could everyone tell our readers how you’ve connected most with respective characters and where you may have struggled in doing so, and why?
Hancock: I have loved getting to know Emily Hobbs. She’s a mom like myself and easily relatable to most with her struggle to balance her busy schedule and family life. She wants the best for her son and deep down longs for her family to experience the magic and joy of the season before it slips away.
KE: The part of my character I think was easiest to connect with was how much he works. I try to always keep myself busy and doing things to further my goals and get to where I want to be. That being said, it turns him into a kind of Grinch—which was the hardest part for me since Christmas is my favorite holiday.
SP: In my personal business career, I have certainly been in stressful situations, though never to the extent that Walter finds himself. I also have three adult children who on rare (he said sheepishly), occasions could add fuel to the dumpster fire. So delivering on the character in a stress-filled situation stems from those personal experiences. . . . As for my perspective of Christmas compared to Walter: polar opposites. Our house has been decorated since the Friday after Thanksgiving —a traditionalist (though, I did cheat a little this year but didn’t activate any lights)—and I very much have deep religious feelings about the season, which is not part of this story.
e: Favorite scene or song?
Hancock: There are so many great scenes in the show but if I had to choose. I’d say my favorite scene is when Emily and her son, Michael, come to the realization that “There is a Santa Claus,” and of course, express their delight through song.
SP: “The Story of Buddy the Elf.”
KE: My favorite song in the show is “Sparklejollytwinklejingley.” It’s this great big jazzy number that’s so much fun to watch. It’s high energy, great music, great singing, great dancing.
What more do you need?