The film “Elf” is a family favorite around the holiday time and the musical version adds music and dancing which many worry will affect this popular holiday film too much.
“I want to convey [Buddy] in a new light through a musical,” says James (JR) Dandrea, a senior at McDowell who plays the lead role, Buddy, in the upcoming holiday play.
The McDowell Center for the Performing Arts (CPA) is presenting “Elf: The Musical”, Dec. 12-15. McDowell will be the first high school in the Northwest Pennsylvania region to produce this musical, based on the classic family film about a young orphan named Buddy who was raised by elves at the North Pole. Buddy always felt like he didn’t fit in because of his human height in a world full of elves. With permission from Santa, Buddy goes to New York City to search for his father, find his true identity and help the bustling city learn the true meaning of Christmas.
This musical will push McDowell’s CPA program to its stage limits as it presents a magical flying sleigh with the help from a professional company. Brent Johnson, director of the show, has been advertising in hopes that the ticket sales will make up for the cost of the sleigh that is several thousands of dollars. CPA created a “Make our Sleigh Fly” campaign as a way to raise money for the expense through sales of advertisements in the show’s program.
“It’s different than other shows,” says Emma Howell, a senior at McDowell who plays Deb, the office manager. The group had to find a creative way to make Buddy look tall compared to the three foot tall elves at the beginning of the show. They decided to have the cast playing elves sing and dance on their knees.
“They’re all complaining about having to wear knee pads and have bruised knees,” Dandrea says. Most of the elves are wearing knee pads during the workshop scene but despite that Jaden Levine, a sophomore at McDowell, quotes in his biography in the pamphlet that “he is not sure at this time if, or when, his knees will recover.”
Other challenges of portraying a Christmas show on stage includes snowball fights and ice skating which the cast and crew will accomplish with snow machines, roller blades and beautiful scenery backdrops.
One of the biggest fears for the majority of the cast is seeing Dandrea on roller blades for the ice skating scene. Dandrea explains that during his audition he was asked if he could rollerblade, he told Johnson that he was good at rollerblading, but once he was on stage on wheels, he realized that he may have forgotten how to rollerblade after 10 years.
“It’s a challenge,” Howell says about teaching Dandrea to learn the dance on the rollerblades. The cast can regularly be seen turning the front lobby of MIHS into a skating rink as they practice just moving let alone going backwards as one step requires.
Sami Deufel, a senior at McDowell and stage manager for the show isn’t sure that combining roller blades with stage scenery will go over well.
“Honestly my biggest fear is ripping a drop,” Deufel says of the rented backdrops that will transform the LIttle Theatre into the North Pole and the big city..
The tickets for the musical are on sale through the CPA box office by calling (814) 836-6925. Tickets are $5 for students, $7 for senior citizens and $10 for adults.