Elf (Broadway musical)

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Broadway Playbill
MusicMatthew Sklar
LyricsChad Beguelin
BookBob Martin
Thomas Meehan
by David Berenbaum
Productions2010 Broadway
2012 Broadway revival
2013 US Tour
2015 West End
2017 Tivoli Gardens

Elf is a musical based on the motion picture of the same name, with a score by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin.[1][2] The book is adapted by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan from the 2003 film. The musical ran on Broadway in the Christmas seasons of 2010-11 and 2012–13, and also toured the U.S. in 2012. A new tour launched in 2014.


William "Buddy" Hobbs, a young orphan child, mistakenly crawls into Santa Claus' bag of gifts and is transported back to the North Pole. After discovering the baby, Santa and his elves decide to raise the child as an elf. Years later, Buddy finds out that he's actually a human being and, at Santa's prompting, heads off to New York City in search of his father, Walter Hobbs.

Faced with the harsh reality that Walter is on the naughty list and his son, Michael, doesn’t even believe in Santa, Buddy is determined to win over his birth family and help New York City remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Differences from the film[edit]

The story is narrated by Santa Claus rather than Papa Elf, the latter character not even appearing in the musical. The story in the musical is said to have begun three years ago, rather than thirty years ago in the movie, so that there's no age limit on the actor playing Buddy. Minor changes from the movie to the musical include Santa Claus using an iPhone instead of a list of names while delivering gifts, Buddy and Jovie's child being changed from a girl to a boy, the department store scenes taking place at Macy's instead of Gimbels, and Buddy being dropped off at the Hobbs house instead of being bailed out of jail by Walter. The musical also adds a subplot about Michael and Emily Hobbs' disbelief in Santa Claus. And instead of having an elf named Ming Ming, they changed the name to Charlie and had a girl elf named Tequila.

Several notable scenes from the film are also absent, including Buddy's visit to the mail room of the Empire State Building and Buddy rescuing Michael from school bullies in a Central Park snowball fight. The film and musical also strongly deviate in the character of Walter Hobbs. In the film, Walter is portrayed as greedy, obsessed with his work, and deliberately neglectful of his family duties. In the musical, he is shown as more bumbling, forgetful, and overworked. It is also explained by Santa Claus in the film that Walter is on the "Naughty List" because of his greed and general meanness, whereas in the musical it is because he doesn't believe in Santa. And in the conference room, Buddy pitches the idea of making the book about how he came to the North Pole (leading to the song, "The Story of Buddy the Elf") and Mr. Greenway loves the story, but Walter quits after Mr. Greenway wants to change the main character in the story from an elf to a horse, instead of Walter going with Micheal to bring Buddy back home with Mr. Greenway firing Walter.

Musical numbers[edit]

The musical numbers in the original Broadway production were as follows:[1]


  • Subsequent productions including the Broadway revival and West End production replaced "Christmastown" with "Happy All the Time" and "I'll Believe in You (Reprise)" with "World's Greatest Dad (Reprise)".[4][5]


The original principal casts of all major productions.

Character Original Broadway Cast (2010) Second Broadway Cast (2012) Original US National Tour Cast (2012) Original West End Cast (2015)[6]
William "Buddy" Hobbs Sebastian Arcelus Jordan Gelber Matt Kopec Ben Forster
Jovie Amy Spanger Leslie Kritzer Kate Hennies Kimberley Walsh
Emily Hobbs Beth Leavel Julia Louise Hosack Jessica Martin
Walter Hobbs Mark Jacoby Drew Pulver Joe McGann
Santa Claus George Wendt Wayne Knight Gordon Gray Mark McKerracher
Michael Hobbs Matthew Gumley
Matthew Schechter
Mitchell Sink Connor Barth Ilan Galkoff Harry Collett Noah Key
Ewan Rutherford
Deb Valerie Wright Jen Bechter Jennie Dale
Mr Greenway Michael McCormick Adam Heller Royce McIntosh Mark McKerracher
Store Manager Michael Mandell Clyde Voce Graham Lappin

Production history[edit]

2010 Broadway cast

Broadway (2010–11)[edit]

After a 2009 workshop, the musical officially opened for a limited holiday engagement at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on Broadway on November 14, 2010, following previews from November 2, 2010. Casey Nicholaw directed.[7][8][9][10] The final performance took place January 2, 2011 after a run of 15 preview and 57 regular performances.[11] A Broadway cast recording was released on November 1, 2011.[12] Leading the original cast was Wicked and Jersey Boys star Sebastian Arcelus, who was joined by Broadway alums Amy Spanger and Beth Leavel.[13]

North American tours (2012, 2013, 2014, 2016)[edit]

Presented by NETworks, a mini-tour of the musical played select cities across North America for the 2012 holiday season. Stops include Providence, RI (Nov. 4-10), Appleton, WI (Nov. 13-18), Tampa, FL (Nov. 20-25), Fort Myers, FL (Nov. 27-Dec. 2) and St. Paul, MN (Dec. 5-30). Two separate tours, running simultaneously, began in 2013, and again 2014, 2015, and 2016. In 2017 there will again be two separate tours, running from November to the end of December.

Broadway revival (2012–13)[edit]

Following the success of the 2010 production, the musical returned to the Al Hirschfeld for a second holiday season beginning November 9, 2012, on a run through January 6, 2013.[14] This new production featured a revised book and a brand new opening number "Happy All the Time."

West End production (2015–16)[edit]

A new production of the musical opened at the Dominion Theatre on October 24, 2015, for a 10-week run until January 2, 2016. This production features Ben Forster as Buddy and Kimberley Walsh as Jovie.[15] This production was received with mixed reviews.[16][17][18][19] As of December 2015, it was announced that Elf the Musical had officially become the fastest selling show since the Dominion Theatre opened in 1929.[20]

Subsequent Productions[edit]

A separate production ran at The 5th Avenue Theatre for a limited engagement in Seattle beginning November 30, 2012, on a run through December 31.[21]

The Canadian premiere of the production ran from November 20, 2012 to January 6, 2013 at Neptune Theatre (Halifax), Nova Scotia.[22]

A 2013 touring production went under the name Elf the Musical.[23][24]

A production of the musical also ran at the Paper Mill Playhouse from Nov 26, 2014 until Jan 4, 2015.

TV adaptation[edit]

On December 16, 2014, NBC broadcast a stop-motion animated adaptation of the musical entitled Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas. It featured the voices of Jim Parsons as Buddy, Mark Hamill as Walter, Ed Asner reprising his film role as Santa, Garfunkel and Oates' Kate Micucci as Jovie, Rachael MacFarlane as Emily, Max Charles as Michael, Gilbert Gottfried as Mr. Greenway, and Jay Leno as the leader of the fake Santas. The screenplay was written by Andrew Horvath, Michael Jelenic with Martin and Meehan. It also contained Guardino, Sklar, and Beguelin's songs from this musical.[25][26] This special also featured a new song titled "Freezy the Snowman".

2017 Broadway[edit]

It had a limited national tour in November 2017. The tour featured Erik Gratton as Buddy, with direction by Sam Scalamoni and choreography by Connor Gallagher.[27] There was also a late 2017 tour until January 14, 2018 in The Lowry theatre in Salford, with Ben Forster as Buddy.[28] On December 24, 2017, it also aired on Channel 5, after being recorded live at The Lowry.[29]

Due to several "potty" words, the show at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Illinois in late November 2017 was changed from a rating of G to PG, with Paramount saying it should have been PG "from the beginning." At the time, it was near breaking the theater's attendance records.[30] It also played in Boston.[31]

Starting on December 13, 2017, it began playing at the Madison Square Garden theater,[32] to be held there[33] until December 29, 2017.[34][35] With George Wendt playing Santa in New York,[36] TimeOut said it was one of the best Christmas shows in New York that year.[37]


Critical reception[edit]

Mark Kennedy of ABC News called the production "a tight, polished, expensive-looking affair that has enough jokes for adults and enough special effects for kids."[38] In 2013, the Washington Post said the musical made the movie look "nuanced."[39] The show in 2015 received mixed[40] reviews from professional critics at publications such as The Guardian. The Guardian didn't much like the 2015 performance, but did praise Ben Forster as Buddy for his "anarchic glee."[41] A New York Times critic described the original Broadway production as “tinseled in synthetic sentiment, performed with a cheer that borders on mania, and instantly forgettable.”[42]

The performance in late 2017 in Aurora received a mostly positive review in the Chicago Sun Times, who said the "immense energy" of the show could be overwhelming, with Kyle Adams as Buddy.[43] The Salt Lake City performance received a mixed to positive review from the Deseret News.[44] A review in Broadway World critic praised it in 2017 in Boston, and observed that children in the show seemed to love the production and pay rapt attention, with Erik Gratton in the title role praised for his performance as Buddy.[45] The English production was well-reviewed by the Manchester Evening News in 2017.[28]

Box office[edit]

The musical broke records at the Hirschfeld box office three times,[46][47][48] grossing over a million dollars in one week. It was the third best-grossing show for the 2010 Thanksgiving weekend, behind Wicked and The Lion King.[49][50]

Awards and honors[edit]

Year Award Category Outcome
2011 Drama League Awards[51] Distinguished Production of a Musical Nominated



  1. ^ a b "Elf". Internet Broadway Database (The Broadway League). Retrieved November 18, 2015.
  2. ^ Isherwood, Charles (November 14, 2010). "North Pole Naïf Tries to Thaw Hearts". The New York Times. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Inside the Playbill: Elf - Opening Night at Al Hirschfeld Theatre". playbillvault.com. Playbill Vault. Archived from the original on 13 August 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
  4. ^ "Elf 2012 Production". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
  5. ^ "ELF". Dominion Theatre programme: 22–23. November 2015.
  6. ^ "Full casting announced for Elf at Dominion". whatsonstage.com. Whats On Stage. 18 August 2015. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  7. ^ Broadway News Report. "Elf: new family musical for the winter holidays". New York Theatre Guide.
  8. ^ The Broadway League. Elf the Musical. Internet Broadway Database.
  9. ^ Healy, Patrick. "Musical Version of 'Elf' Heading to Broadway". The New York Times, June 11, 2010
  10. ^ Andrew Gans. "Nicholaw to Direct Workshop of Elf—The Musical". Playbill.com, September 3, 2009
  11. ^ " 'Elf: The Musical' Unwraps Broadway Christmas Bow Nov. 2 at the Hirschfeld" Archived 2010-11-19 at the Wayback Machine., playbill.com
  12. ^ Recording Amazon.com
  13. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Sebastian Arcelus Will Be Broadway's Buddy; Elf – The Musical Completes Casting". Playbill
  14. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "'Elf The Musical' Will Return to Broadway's Al Hirschfeld Theatre in November" playbill.com, August 9, 2012
  15. ^ "Elf Musical" londonboxoffice.co.uk, February 21, 2015
  16. ^ "Elf the Musical review – don't come, all ye faithful" theguardian.com, November 6, 2015
  17. ^ "Elf, Dominion Theatre, review: 'Magic, for a steep price'" telegraph.co.uk, November 6, 2015
  18. ^ "Elf, Dominion Theatre, London, review: Absurdly expensive musical is a ridiculous hoot" independent.co.uk, November 9, 2015
  19. ^ "Review: ELF at the Dominion Theatre" londonboxoffice.co.uk, November 12, 2015
  20. ^ "Elf The Musical Breaks Records at London's Dominion Theatre - Boxoffice.co.uk". www.boxoffice.co.uk.
  21. ^ http://playbill.com/news/article/171813-Seattle-Elf-to-Feature-Matt-Owen-Kendra-Kassebaum-and-Kim-Huber-Complete-Cast-Announced
  22. ^ http://www.neptunetheatre.com/default.asp?mn=1.22.211
  23. ^ Pressley, Nelson (December 19, 2013). "'Elf the Musical': Like the Will Ferrell hit, but noisier and faster". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  24. ^ Elf the Musical at Show Score. Retrieved on December 3, 2017.
  25. ^ Ostrow, Joanne. "Ostrow: Jim Parsons, "Elf" will fulfill your holiday TV special requirements" Denver Post, December 12, 2014
  26. ^ Weinstein, Shelli. "Jim Parsons To Star in NBC’s ‘Elf’ Animated Holiday Special" Variety, October 24, 2014
  27. ^ Hetrick, Adam (October 18, 2017), Complete Cast Announced for Holiday Return of Elf Musical, Playbill, retrieved December 25, 2017
  28. ^ a b Bourne, Dianne (November 29, 2017), Review: Elf the Musical is a Christmas cracker for all the family at The Lowry, Manchester Evening News, retrieved December 25, 2017
  29. ^ Elf Musical Live Stage Review, The Stage, retrieved December 25, 2017
  30. ^ 'Elf' gets rating change from G to PG, but still on track to break records at Aurora's Paramount, Chicago Tribune, November 30, 2017, retrieved December 25, 2017
  31. ^ Hetrick, Adam (October 3, 2017), Elf The Musical Sets Holiday Return With Cheers Star George Wendt, Playbill, retrieved December 25, 2017
  32. ^ Soloski, Alexis (December 7, 2017), What’s New in NYC Theater, The New York Times, retrieved December 25, 2017
  33. ^ Elf the Musical, Madison Square Gardens, 2017, retrieved December 25, 2017
  34. ^ George Wendt plays Santa in ‘Elf: The Musical’, Newsday, December 5, 2017, retrieved December 25, 2017
  35. ^ Christmas in New York - Elf, AM NY, retrieved December 25, 2017
  36. ^ Elf—The Musical, TimeOut, 2017, retrieved December 25, 2017
  37. ^ The best Christmas shows in NYC this holiday season, TimeOut, November 2, 2017, retrieved December 25, 2017
  38. ^ News, A. B. C. "Entertainment Index". ABC News.
  39. ^ ‘Elf the Musical’: Like the Will Ferrell hit, but noisier and faster, Washington Post, December 19, 2013, retrieved December 25, 2017
  40. ^ Elf the Musical: Critics give mixed reviews for 'overpriced' show, BBC, November 6, 2015, retrieved December 25, 2017
  41. ^ Elf the Musical review – don't come, all ye faithful, The Guardian, November 6, 2015, retrieved December 25, 2017
  42. ^ What’s New in NYC Theater, The New York Times, December 7, 2017, retrieved December 25, 2017
  43. ^ Like Candy Corns and Syrup, Elf the Musical Overpowers at Paramount, Chicago Sun Times, 2017, retrieved December 25, 2017
  44. ^ Theater review: 'Elf the Musical' had holiday cheer but lacked the movie's magic, Deseret News, November 7, 2017, retrieved December 25, 2017
  45. ^ BWW Review: ELF THE MUSICAL: Spiritual Revival, Broadway World, December 2, 2017, retrieved December 25, 2017
  46. ^ BWW Newsdesk. "ELF Breaks Box Office Record at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre" broadwayworld.com, November 29, 2010.
  47. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Elf – The Musical Ends Broadway Holiday Run Jan. 2". Playbill. January 2, 2011.
  48. ^ "ELF Breaks B.O. Record Again at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre". Broadway World. December 27, 2010.
  49. ^ [1] nytimes.com
  50. ^ "Broadway Grosses: Wicked, The Lion King & Elf Set Records in Smashing Holiday Week" Broadway.com, November 29, 2010.
  51. ^ Gans, Andrew (April 25, 2011). "Book of Mormon, Priscilla, Sister Act, War Horse, Good People and More Are Drama League Nominees". Playbill.com. Archived from the original on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 25 April 2011.

External links[edit]