Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Elf the Musical
Olney Theatre Center
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of Anything Goes

Kevin McAllister and David Schlumpf
Photo by Stan Barouh
Children getting their first exposure to live theater may be the ideal audience for Elf the Musical, now at the Olney Theatre Center in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. More experienced audiences may have trouble with the bland but relentless cheerfulness of the work by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin (book), Matthew Sklar (music), and Chad Beguelin (lyrics).

The story, based on the popular 2003 movie that starred Will Ferrell, begins with Santa (Kevin McAllister, unrecognizable under body padding and a gray wig and beard) at home at the North Pole, wearing a red track suit and sitting in his easy chair. As an intermittent narrator, Santa tells how the orphaned infant Buddy (affable David Schlumpf) crawled into his toy bag one Christmas Eve, grew up among the elves despite growing much taller and developing a deeper voice, and now must learn to live in human society. With only the name of his father and a snow globe of New York City to guide him, Buddy heads out.

Buddy's unsuspecting father, Walter Hobbs (Bobby Smith), is a workaholic executive in a children's book publishing firm, ignoring his frazzled wife Emily (Janine Sunday) and neglecting his young son Michael (Tyler Smallwood or Eli Lander). Buddy knows that all they need is a good dose of the Christmas spirit, which he's determined to give them, whether they want it or not. He also stumbles into a job at Macy's Christmas shop, where he strives to melt the cynicism of co-worker Jovie (Patricia Hurley). The result of Buddy's efforts is never in doubt.

Director Michael J. Bobbitt does his best with material that in essence resembles Buddy's all-sugar diet (with maple syrup on top). Tara Jeanne Vallee's lively choreography includes a bluesy number for a group of "fake Santas" sharing drinks and Chinese food on Christmas Eve.

On the other hand, the physical production is beautiful. Daniel Ettinger's scenic design includes a curving proscenium arch trimmed with lights, with projections of enormous snowflakes (designed by Sarah Tundermann) appearing at various points on the rear scrim. Max Doolittle's lighting design encompasses both the fantasy of Santa's workshop and the everyday of New York homes and offices. Costume designer Kendra Rai seems to have been working within specific color palettes: the employees of Walter's firm all wear black and shades of plum, while in the finale everyone in the cast is wearing pale blue shoes.

Olney Theatre Center
Elf the Musical
November 9th, 2018 - January 6th, 2019
Book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin
Music by Matthew Sklar
Lyrics by Chad Beguelin
Based on the New Line Cinema film by David Berenbaum
Santa: Kevin McAllister
Mrs. Claus: Lara Zinn
Buddy: David Schlumpf
Charlie: Marty Austin Lamar
Shawanda: Jessica Bennett
Walter Hobbs: Bobby Smith
Sam: Connor James Reilly
Matthews: Lara Zinn
Chadwick: Christian Montgomery
Emily: Janine Sunday
Michael: Tyler Smallwood or Eli Langer
Deb: Nova Y. Payton (through Dec. 24), Ashleigh King (after Dec. 25)
Macy's Manager: Calvin McCullough
Jovie: Patricia Hurley
Fake Santa: Marty Austin Lamar
Police: Jennifer Flohr
Mr. Greenway: Marty Austin Lamar
Charlotte Dennon: Lara Zinn
Ensemble: Jessica Bennett, Michelle E. Carter, Jennifer Flohr, Isabel Garcia, Andre Hinds, Christian Montgomery, Taylor Elise Rector, Connor James Reilly, Sarah Anne Sillers, David Singleton, Lara Zinn
Directed by Michael J. Bobbitt
Choreography by Tara Jeanne Vallee
Music director: Angie Benson
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD
Ticket Information: 301-924-3400 or