116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
If you share Buddy’s affinity for elf culture, he’s ready to share his North Pole magic. You won’t even have to travel “through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, past the sea of twirly-swirly gum drops,” or walk through the Lincoln Tunnel.
What you will hear is an entire Corridor cast spreading Christmas cheer “by singing loud for all to hear” when “Elf The Musical” comes to the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts.
City Circle Theatre Company is staging the show, based on the holiday film, from Friday through Sunday, Dec. 9 to 18. It’s part of the troupe’s 25th anniversary celebration.
What: City Circle Theatre Company presents “Elf The Musical”
Where: Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, 1301 Fifth St., Coralville
When: Dec. 9 to 11 and 16 to 18; 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $25 adults, $22 ages 65 and up, $20 students, $17 ages 10 and under, $30 premium seats; Center Box Office, (319) 248-9370 or coralvillearts.org/253/Elf-The-Musical
Expect to experience a few changes from the movie version.
“The music — that’s the most important thing right there,” said director and choreographer Keegan Christopher, 32, of Coralville.
Music, dance and a couple of character shifts are the biggest differences.
“But the main storyline is still the same,” he said. “The other real difference is the comedy. Will (Ferrell) is known for using his rubbery face and slapstick style to create comedy and you can’t do that as much onstage. It’s possible, but it’s a lot easier in film.
“So they’ve written the comedy into a lot of the musical numbers to still fit that same vein, but allow for the actor to create the moment, versus recreating something that Will or a Jim Carrey-esque movie-style actor could do.”
Christopher is singing the praises of Kent Reynolds of Cedar Rapids, who is stepping into the iconic role of Buddy the Elf, an orphan who was raised at the North Pole after crawling into Santa’s bag. When he outgrew everything in his path and found out he really was a human, he set out to find his birth father in New York City.
“(Buddy) has to carry the show, particularly in Act I (when) he doesn't get to leave the stage. So (it had to be) somebody that could take on that role, and have the stamina for that,” Christopher said.
“But then, somebody who just presents as an honest, loving person, because I think one of the traps for the show is that if Buddy tries to be funny, then Buddy is no longer funny. He has to be honest about every moment that’s being asked of him.”
The scriptwriters realized that, Christopher said.
“The best thing about this script, when they wrote it, they were like, ‘Well, these are the things that actually make ‘Elf’ what it is, so we’re going to include those and then not ask an actor to play the original actor, let them create the Buddy that is theirs.’
“Kent Reynolds is playing Buddy, and he's just phenomenal. To see the way he lights up the stage and lights up everybody’s lives within the show — it’s what the Christmas spirit and magic is all about.”
City Circle’s board was looking to stage a new holiday classic, and needed someone to serve as a director or choreographer, or both. Christopher, formerly with the Old Creamery Theatre in Amana, fit both bills and jumped at the chance to bring some elfin relief to the stage.
“I truly think that there is a magnificent place for escapism in theater,” he said, “because I think particularly with everything going on in the world with the pandemic and inflation, people need a chance to just escape their worries and ‘Elf’ certainly allows for that. It allows for families to come together and celebrate what makes them special and not trying to fit in a box.
“It talks about born family, but also chosen family, which I think is really important. And it talks about magic and creativity and love in ways that a non-musical maybe it doesn’t allow us to access. And also, while it keeps the funny of Will Ferrell, it’s not trying to be Will on stage as Buddy. It’s trying to present Buddy as Buddy, and the magic that he can bring to the table.”
Like all good Christmas classics, even though the movie version was released in 2003, the story stands the test of time.
“I think it’s timeless because particularly around the holidays, people all over — no matter what their background is — are looking for a feeling of belonging,” Christopher said.
“For some, it’s coming back to a place that you felt like you’ve belonged, if you’ve been gone for a while. For some people, that doesn’t exist, right?
“And so it’s a story about someone who thought they knew where they belonged, found out that what they thought, wasn’t true, and they have to go on an internal and external journey to find out who they are. Along the way, they meet some pretty amazing people who impacted their lives. Buddy impacts their lives, and they impact Buddy’s lives, to make sure that they are the best version of themselves.
“So I think that feeling of belonging and love is what makes it stand up and hit the test of time.”
The family friendly show also is a great way to introduce children to theater, he noted, and engage imaginations through the scenery.
“It’s imaginative, as if Buddy is shaking up the snow globe to tell us the story in every scene,” Christopher said. A story laced with love.
“I hope when everybody leaves the show, that their hearts are lifted just a little bit, and that it brings some joy to their holiday season, no matter what they’re going through,” he added.
“From a personal standpoint, I cannot get to the end of this show without tearing up in a good way. While everybody reacts to things differently, I hope that it lifts their spirits just a little bit.”
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