Wearing a Santa Claus outfit and a smile so big and sincere that we could see it through her mask, our waitress at the Gaslight Theatre asked us if we were celebrating anything special this evening.
“Just Christmas!” I exclaimed, probably obnoxiously but definitely in the spirit of the Gaslight Theatre, where Christmas is in full swing. And thank goodness. I think we could use as much holiday cheer as we can get, this year.
Dudley the Elf, the protagonist of The Gaslight Theatre’s current show, “Elf’d,” would almost certainly agree with me. No one, we are reminded throughout the show, has as much Christmas spirit as Dudley. This parody is based on the beloved Christmas movie “Elf,” which tells the story of a human raised by elves who must learn to navigate the mean streets and brightly lit shopping malls of New York City. With a new plot and its own special Gaslight Theatre twist, this show—written by Peter Van Slyke and directed by Katherine Byrnes—brings the characters and the spirit of the original film to life.
As Dudley, actor Jake Chapman brings all the naïve enthusiasm we know and love from the movie, and ALMOST brings back some of its most memorable phrases. When he’s frustrated with himself, he calls himself a “fluffer nutter noodle noggin.” When he’s trying to save Christmas, he reminds himself of one of elfhood’s most important rules: “If you want to spread Yuletide spirit, say ‘Merry Christmas!’ for all to hear it.”
As the show begins, Santa explains he is concerned about being able to fly his sleigh this year, because it’s powered by Christmas spirit—a commodity in increasingly short supply. Dudley has gathered up all his favorite things about Christmas, all those that bring him the most holiday cheer, and put them into a bottle which Santa can use as fuel. But when Wally the greedy elf (Jacob Brown) gets ahold of it and flees to New York, there’s trouble: Wally wants to work with a giant, money-hungry toy manufacturer to get Santa’s workshop shut down and replaced with a corporate toy factory. It wouldn’t be a classic Christmas tale without the forces of capitalism lurking, would it?
Wally wears a pointy green elf hat, which, in order to blend in in NYC, he later replaces with a fedora and a green blazer. His color scheme, combined with his obsession with a secret formula in a little bottle and general shrillness, make his character reminiscent of Plankton, owner of the Chum Bucket in Spongebob Squarepants. His “grumpy wumpy grouchy pants” vibe makes a great counter to Dudley’s never-wavering, Spongebob-like cheer.
Armed with the knowledge that he’s not the elf he thought he was, but still dressed in full elf garb, Dudley follows Wally to New York via beluga whale, where he attempts to get back his magic Christmas potion and to eat pieces of candy he finds on the sidewalk. On his journey, he encounters wacky characters that range from a Salvation Army Santa Claus to a woman also dressed as an elf to a cleaning lady with a big secret. Heather Stricker and Erin Thompson were both particularly funny in their roles as two women trying their best to keep all of this chaos organized.
As usual, the musical numbers throughout the show don’t disappoint, surely thanks to musical direction by Linda Ackerman and choreography by Katherine Byrnes. I had to laugh when they did their own version of “Christmas Is All Around,” the song Bill Nighy’s rockstar character sings in the film “Love, Actually.” And when they did a version of “YMCA” called “SANTA,” even the teenage boy at the table next to us was laughing and clapping along. Do you know how hard it is to get a teenage boy to exhibit enthusiasm? Leave it to the Gaslight to make true holiday magic happen.
Musical presented by Presented by Gaslight Theatre
7010 E. Broadway Blvd.
Monday through Sunday through Jan. 2.
$27 adults, $25 for students/seniors/military, $15 for kids 2 to 12.