With Christmas just around the corner, the Ogunquit Playhouse and the Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, have once again partnered to bring a little magic to New England. This year, the theaters are whisking audiences off to Christmastown with a new rendition of “Elf The Musical” that will make even the hardest of hearts believe.

Portsmouth was noticeably lacking in snow opening night, but filled with holiday spirit. A Santa played Christmas songs on a harmonica outside Starbucks while shoppers perused the quaint local shops. Those who entered the Music Hall were greeted with warmth and holiday charm in the decorated lobby and Christmas cheer in the theater upstairs. A set designed especially for the Music Hall has transformed the historic stage into an enchanting snow globe, filled with countless wonders and delight.

“Elf The Musical” is without a doubt campy and over the top, but that’s all part of the fun. Underneath the silliness lies a story with a heart of gold. Like the 2003 movie staring Will Ferrell, the stage production is the story of Buddy, a 30-year-old man raised from infancy by Santa and his elves. Upon finding out that he’s human, the ultra-na├»ve Buddy sets off in his elf suit to New York City in search of his dad, hoping to find a place where he belongs.

Steven Booth stars as Buddy, delivering an energetic performance that is a smile-inducing combination of ridiculous and adorable. He radiates a childlike enthusiasm and innocence that’s downright infectious, from the spring in his dancing feet to the sparkle in his eyes.

Diana Huey, who recently toured as Ariel in the National Tour of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” shines as Buddy’s love interest, Jovie. She offers high, ethereal vocals that dip to sassy in a memorable performance of “Never Fall in Love.” Booth and Huey are nicely paired on “A Christmas Song,” ice-skating in front of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.

“Elf The Musical” is full of treats, from the inventive sets and whimsical costumes to the lively choreography and endearing cast. Calvin Middleton is a surprising standout as Michael, Buddy’s younger half-brother. His vocals as clear and strong on such duets as “I Believe in You” and “There is a Santa Claus,” beautifully performed with his onstage mom Emily, played by Annie Edgerton.

Along with engaging performances by Blake Hammond as Santa and Christopher Russo as Buddy’s dad, Walter Hobbs, the musical is packed with secondary characters that add “sparklejollytwinklejingley” to the story. Jen Cody is a riot as Mr. Hobbs’s wise-cracking assistant, Deb, singing and dancing with Buddy on the dance number, “Just Like Him.”

Lothair Eaton is pure fun as the Macy’s store manager, offering a bigger-than-life performance. He’s also featured with Eric Jon Mahlum as two of the fake Santa Clauses in the exceptional “Nobody Cares About Santa.” The jazzy, blues number allows Booth to highlight his vocal versatility, backed by an ensemble of fake Santas doing a hustle that is a delightful nod to classic theater.

Along with the cast and ensemble, the musical features a precious cast of 17 elves and an eight-piece band, under the direction of Andrew Bourgoin.

“Elf The Musical” is the sprinkles on holiday cookies and the chocolate bar in Buddy’s chocolate monster cocoa. It is a joyous reminder of the importance of family and the value of childhood wonder. The Ogunquit Playhouse has produced a rendition that sparkles with magic and inspires plenty enough belief to power Santa’s sleigh as it flies across the Music Hall’s stage.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @ahboyle

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