Peggy Sue Dunigan

The Happy Elf

By - Dec 1st, 2008 02:52 pm
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“Think big and you can do great things.” Believing this line quoted from Harry Connick Jr.’s The Happy Elf, First Stage Children’s Theater perfected every production element throughout their opening night performance. From the charming North Pole stage designed on two levels to snowflakes of light spiraling over the audience, the musical Happy Elf delivered the promised ticket of holiday joy.

With music and lyrics composed by the famed Harry Connick, Jr. and a book written by Andrew Fishman, this tale of Eubie the Elf considers postmodern concepts. Eubie works in a North Pole inhabited with Walgreensleeves, McDonner’s, Northstarbucks, and Barnes and Snowble. But the seasonal magic hovers under elves’ hats and shines through in five new songs commissioned especially for this First Stage production, including the delightful “It Happens When You Try” and “Santarific.”

A national award-winning production team including Broadway Director John Rando, Choreographer Wendy Seyb, Scenic Designer Beowulf Boritt, and Costume Designer Karin Kopischke worked with Milwaukee’s own Richard Carsey as Musical Director and Lighting Designer Jason Fassl.  This team creates a show which sparkles with professionalism. Add the acting abilities of First Stage’s Bluesville cast, which includes the lovely voice of Rachel Schmeling as Mollie and Alex Aldred’s Curtis, the two unhappy teenagers who assist Eubie in bringing a light-filled Christmas to the depressed and cloud-covered town of Bluesville.

Credit actor Jared Gertner with providing the show with a believable Eubie, who appears eccentric and lovable with finesse. His feminine companion, the elf Gilda (played by Hannah Laird) finds the sweet taste of romance for Eubie in delectable proportions. Santa’s powerful voice speaks through Michael James Leslie and represents another Milwaukee debut.

This contemporary take on America’s Christmas season reminisces animated holiday television specials. It is filled with untraditional melodies and carols, and the production moves quickly and seamlessly in less than two hours.  The story’s mischievous and heartwarming antics entertain both adults and children, bringing a unique brand of Christmas cheer.  The Happy Elf honors the quality talent brought by First Stage’s exceptional vision and commitment to Milwaukee children’s theater.  Perhaps as if reiterating a First Stage thought on this production, Santa proclaims when he rides into Bluesville that his “presents are not rewards for the renewed spirit of Christmas but seeds of hope and generosity to be shared throughout the year.”

First Stage Children’s Theater presents Harry Connick, Jr.’s The Happy Elf through December 24 at the Todd Wehr Theatre in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets: 414.273.7206  or  www.firststage.org.

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