Elfie Tuesday: An Intro to Elf The Musical

With Elf The Musical taking the Arkansas Repertory Theatre stage, starting Wednesday, Dec. 3, we are penning a new short series called “Elfie Tuesday” every Tuesday throughout its run.

To start our series– with the help of our dramaturg, Robert Neblett– we will take a look back at the musical and what it was before became a fixture in theatre: a movie of the same name, starring Will Ferrell and James Caan!

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History

After 10 years of development and pre-production, the film of Elf was finally released in November 2003, with a script by David Berenbaum and direction by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Chef). It starred Will Ferrell in his first post-Saturday Night Live role as Buddy, James Caan (The Godfather) as Walter, Zooey Deschanel (The New Girl) as Jovie, Arkansas native Mary Steenburgen (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape) as Emily, Ed Asner (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) as Santa and Bob Newhart (The Bob Newhart Show) as Papa Elf.

They introduced the world to an unlikely new Christmas hero in the movie Elf. A contemporary fable, this comic film charmed audiences and critics alike, and Buddy the Elf soon became the unofficial mascot for the holiday season in 21st Century America.

Wide-eyed Buddy reminds us that there is still room for magic in our world of hyper-commercialism and Black Friday sales and that the most precious gift of all is the love of family.

The film opened at No. 2 at the United States Box Office and went on to gross more than $220 million worldwide.

It received relatively favorable reviews from critics and audiences for its good-natured humor and positive message. Ferrell’s childlike performance catapulted it to an audience favorite, and Buddy is now a regular fixture in Christmas decorations and holiday television offerings.

In 2010, the story took on a new dimension as it was adapted into a festive seasonal Arcelusmusical for the stage by Tony Award-winners Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone) and the Tony-nominated Matthew Sklar (The Wedding Singer and Shrek: The Musical).

Elf: The Musical broke Broadway box office records and toured the country before being snatched up by regional theatres across America, like The Rep this season!

Some differences between the film and the musical:

  • Papa Elf’s (Bob Newhart) role as the film’s narrator is replaced by Santa Claus onstage.
  • Buddy does get a job in the mailroom at the publishing house.
  • The snowball fight that endears Michael to Buddy is replaced by a science project onstage.
  • The role of temperamental author Miles Finch (played by Peter Dinklage), whom Buddy mistakes as an elf, is excised.
  • The musical does not reference the apocalyptic Central Park Rangers, who chase Santa’s sleigh in the movie.

Pulled from Elf study guide, prepared by Robert Neblett.

Great seats are available for Elf after Christmas. Purchase yours online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405.

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