On a stage adorned with Legos, giant Etch-a-Sketches and more Christmas-colored paper chains than you’ve ever seen. students of Lehi High School’s drama department put their hearts and souls into “Elf the Musical.” The stage adaptation of the beloved Christmas movie has witty lines and music you can’t help but tap your toes to, and it was clear that these students had the time of their lives performing it together.
Enter Santa Claus, played by Xander Noyes, to set the stage. He introduces the story of Buddy the Elf and, from there, the whimsical and funny tale emerges. Elves waddle onto the stage, played by a few dozen students wearing slippers on their knees. The elf ensemble had the audience in stitches, kicking off the music with “Happy All the Time,” where we meet Buddy the Elf, played by Talmage Howlett.
Howlett stepped into his character with his whole (s)elf. Filled to the brim with unabashed enthusiasm, impressive jumps, unsolicited hugs and goofy smiles, he stole the show from start to finish. His talent was only amplified by the slew of talented performers he worked alongside.
The other lead actors each performed their hearts out, with a fewstandouts including Abi Archer as Jovie, Taylor Meigs as Michael, Gideon Selph as the Store Manager and Eli Archer as Deb.
Abi Archer belted out the final note of “Never Fall in Love With an Elf” with stunning clarity, while Meigs’ enthusiasm for Christmas had me really believing she was 12 years old. Selph shone in “Sparklejollytwinklejoy” with his dancing and acting, and Eli Archer bantered easily with Howlett in each Greenway Press scene.
Every last scene was a delight, and the lead actors couldn’t have done it without the help of an endlessly enthusiastic ensemble. Their energy was high, and the amount of fun they had was even higher. As I looked at each ensemble member, I clearly saw the cast worked to learn the music and choreography. More importantly, however, I could tell they were having a wonderful time. In a musical like this one that’s boundlessly fun, it’s important for every performer — no matter how “small” their role — to have a fun time and make sure the audience knows it.
The performers were impressive, and each set and costume werecharming and festive to match. The magic of the show peaked toward the end, when white confetti came down from the ceiling of the auditorium right before Santa’s sleigh took flight.
The musical is, of course, not a beat-for-beat adaptation of the movie. Not to worry, though, as it has just as much wit and heart, not to mention many of the jokes we’ve known, loved and laughed at for the past 20 years. The songs add new life to the story and give us even more to love about Buddy the Elf.
Great effort went into this show from all angles, including the tech crew and creative team. Mindy Nelsen, LHS drama teacher and director of the show, expressed that the show couldn’t have turned out as great as it did without this help.
“We couldn’t do the speed we do without these students’ hard work and dedication and my amazing team of Randy Blackburn, Cheryl Allgaier and Katie Allen,” said Nelsen. “The students and staff have worked hard since early September creating these characters and practicing the songs and the dances.”
Nelsen also shared her admiration for her students as she watched them learn and grow through this production.
“Watching how they grow and come alive on stage and behind the scenes is a blessing and gift, and has been for the past 18 years I’ve been at the school. I’m consistently amazed by my students’ ability to find morals and messages and use them as an opportunity for personal and communal growth. They have really sought to bring joy and wonder and happiness to the community through this show. And I have seen an extraordinary growth in kindness among them,” said Nelsen.
Watching Buddy the Elf spread Christmas cheer to grumps and non-believers throughout New York City was a wonderful way to kick off the Holiday season. These students put themselves out there and made spirits bright along the way.
There are only a few performances of “Elf the Musical” remaining, so don’t miss this wonderful production. You can catch the show Dec. 1 and 2 at 7 p.m. or Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8-10 and can be purchased through the LHS gofan.co page.
“We hope people will come and start their Christmas season with us,” Nelsen added.