‘Elf Jr.’ sees the holidays through children’s eyes
In director Jon Favreau’s 2003 holiday comedy film “Elf,” an orphan named Buddy, played by Will Ferrell, who was raised by elves at the North Pole, leaves to find his birth father Walter Hobbs and show his new family the meaning of Christmas.
The storyline is the same for “Elf the Musical Jr.,” which will be performed by the Egyptian Theatre’s YouTheatre from Dec. 7-9.
YouTheatre Director Jamie Wilcox referred to the musical’s cast to illustrate how YouTheatre allows the kids to bring themselves into each character.
“Many of the have seen the movie and attended the Pioneer Theatre Company’s production a few Christmases ago,” WWilcox told The Park Record. “So there is a new level of excitement with our show, and it’s so its great for them to have that connection when they are rehearsing their roles.”
That said, Wilcox and the co-directors Stania Shaw and Amy Livingston worked to get the kids’ own versions of the characters rather than imitations of what they had previously seen on screen and stage.
“There is a little room for mimicking, but we want the kids’ originality to come through,” Wilcox said. “And I think this is the biggest challenge for the main characters, especially Buddy the Elf.”
YouTheatre’s Buddy is performed by J.T. O’Reilly, a YouTheatre regular who has performed at Pioneer Theater and at the Center Point Legacy Theater.
“He has a lot of experience and brought his own nuances to Buddy,” Wilcox said. “I think the great thing about having Buddy played by a child rather than an adult is that J.T. captures the innocence and sweetness that the character has.”
Another challenging role is Buddy’s birth father Walter, played by Lance Rothchild, Wilcox said.
“I think Walter is a challenging role because it’s hard for kids to play adults and Lance does a great job at it,” she said. “He has done so much with us, so it’s been fun to see him come into his own with this production and the production we did previously, ‘Emma.’ He was a kid who was born to be on stage.”
Walter’s wife Emily is played by Chelsea Cowley.
“One thing I’ve always liked about Chelsea is that she has a self-awareness and very mature energy she brings to her characters,” Wilcox said. “But she also can do the opposite. When she played Sheldon in ‘Junie B. Jones’ the musical, she showed she could play a first-grader extremely well.”
Eli Elkin performs as the Hobbs’ son Michael.
“Michael’s character is just so sweet.” Wilcox said. “He’s the one who wants to believe so much that Buddy really came from the North Pole. It’s his and Buddy’s connection that allows Walter to want that connection with Buddy as well.”
The other two main characters – Santa Claus and Jovie – are respectively played by Zach Eggleton and Amanda Green.
“Zach has only done a couple of things with us, but came to his audition ready,” Wilcox said. “He has a voice for Santa and had obviously rehearsed the monologue a few times. So, after he left the audition room and we all looked at each other and went, ‘Holy moly!’”
While Green may be fairly new to the Egyptian Theatre’s YouTheatre program, she was very involved in the program in Chicago.
“She joined us this summer after she recentlyly moved to Park City and we are so happy that she has come to us,” Wilcox said.
One of the elements in “Elf “is the relationship between Buddy and Jovie, which, Wilcox said, is approached differently in “Elf the Musical Jr.”
“First off, the actors are kids and we want them to have a fun chemistry, but at the same time not promote what we call ‘showmances,’” Wilcox said. “I think what’s lovely about both J.T. and Amanda is that the young actors have tons of experience. They both love what they do and are really professional. But they are also willing to take chances and try different things. So it’s so great to see their affection grow for each other throughout the show.”
“Elf the Musical Jr.” started rehearsals in September, right after Labor Day.
“The show has come together beautifully, but it also came together so quickly,” Wilcox said. “And I think that has to do with our co-directors – Stania Shaw and Amy Livingston. It was fun having each of them work with different groups in different rooms at the same time.”
Wilcox is happy that YouTheatre could present “Elf the Musical Jr.” this year because it touches on other themes such as looking at the world through childlike eyes and accepting people who are different.
“To me those ideas don’t only encapsulate the show, they are also what I want YouTheatre to encapsulate,” Wilcox said. “I want YouTheatre to be a place where people can come and be their unique selves and be excited and accepted for that. So to do that through a show like ‘Elf’ is what it’s all about.”
The Egyptian Theatre’s YouTheatre will present “Elf the Musical Jr.” at 7 p.m. from Thursday to Saturday, Dec. 7-9, and at 2 p.m. on Dec. 9, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Adult tickets are $14. Tickets for youth ages 17 and younger are $9. For information, visit parkcityshows.com.
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