Yes, it's Buddy the Elf, spreading Christmas cheer. But this is not the Buddy of the big screen, comedian Will Ferrell in the beloved 2003 movie "Elf." This is actor Will Blum, singing and dancing his way through "Elf: The Musical," which runs through Dec. 15 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago.
The Actor's Equity cast is here as part of Broadway in Chicago, with the 2010 musical that opened to mixed reviews in New York. And while those reviews were justified — and would fit what I saw on Tuesday's opening night — the show still is a good holiday family ticket.
This is not a perfect translation to stage of the sweet and charming movie that became a holiday classic. It doesn't knock your socks off in the way the production of "The Christmas Story, The Musical!" did when it came to Chicago in 2011. That successfully translated the film version to the stage. But "Elf: The Musical" is sweet, and it is something your children, having grown up on "Elf," will enjoy.
The story — that of a little orphan boy who crawled into Santa Claus' toy sack and was raised at the North Pole only to discover by accident, at age 27, that he was not a 6-foot-tall elf — is charming. When Buddy comes to New York to find his father and spread Christmas cheer, it does warm your heart. And you do smile — even as you tamp down the feeling that this movie-to-stage musical was a blatant commercial attempt to cash in on the popularity of Ferrell's wildly popular performance (a feeling that is reinforced as you leave the theater and have the opportunity to shell out $30 for Buddy's snow globe or $50 for a Buddy-the-Elf hoodie).
Still, this is a talented cast. Kudos to Ken Clement as Santa, who is excellent, to Will Blum as Buddy and to Noah Marlowe, who plays Buddy's long-lost little brother and has an excellent voice and presence.
And this is live theater with a band and all — which means magic happens on stage. So, it's a wonderful gift to a child and to the child in each of us adults.
What: “Elf: The Musical”
When: Through Dec. 15
Where: Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago
Info: 800-775-2000, BroadwayInChicago.com