GLEN RIDGE, NJ — The Gas Lamp Players will present the full-length musical “Elf” for its holiday show this year and its director, Kristy Graves, does not want anyone mistakenly thinking it is a shortened junior version.
“It’s the adult main stage show,” she said in a recent interview with The Glen Ridge Paper. “We want to make that perfectly clear. It’s the full Broadway version, with one of the strongest Gas Lamp casts ever.”
The Broadway musical “Elf” opened in 2010, at Christmas time, and has subsequently been performed on many stages. Adapted from the 2003 movie of the same name, this holiday favorite tells the story of Buddy, a New Yorker, who, as a small child, is accidentally transported to the North Pole, where he is raised as an elf by Santa. He eventually returns home, with endearing results. In the Gas Lamp show, Buddy is played by Kevin Ohlweiler.
“I’ve known Kevin for a very long time,” Graves said. “He was our Edna in ‘Hairspray.’ He’s a redhead and very tall, and when he gets on Santa’s lap, it’s hysterical.”
The show is festive and warmhearted, she said, with humor that grown-ups will enjoy. There are approximately 20 children and 40 adults in the cast. A number of children will be performing alongside one of their parents.
“We’re creating a cute scene with a mom and her actual son in Macy’s,” Graves said. “And there’s another scene with a mother and her two daughters, and a father and his daughter, ice skating at Rockefeller Center.”
The iconic New York City locations, as well as Buddy’s departure from the North Pole aboard drifting ice, are the handiwork of set designer Alecia Hurst-Walton.
“I’ve worked with her before and she’s brilliant,” Graves said. “She makes magic happen on our tiny budget. Santa’s workshop is pretty spectacular and so is Rockefeller Center. We’re using projections that the sets are put over. The projections just fill it out.”
The show is not only entertaining with great performances and beautiful sets, Graves said, but a big reason to see Gas Lamp’s “Elf” is because it is filled with so much spirit and gives people a reason to celebrate again.
“We wanted a big, family show and everyone will love Buddy the elf,” Graves assured.
She is certain the show will be uplifting because, on recent promotional video shoots around town with Ohlweiler in costume, motorists recognized his character, honked horns and called out “Buddy!”
There have been challenges for Graves, too. Ohlweiler is usually the lighting designer for main stage productions, so a new designer had to be brought in. Also, several people with production team roles have moved away from Glen Ridge. Consequently, Graves is working with a new choreographer, stage manager and musical director.
“That’s been challenging,” she said, “because you develop a rhythm working with the same people. I’m totally grateful that my assistant director is the same. This is Susan Knight. She’s held down the fort; she’s been my rock. Susan knows Gas Lamp and how we do things.”
“Elf” is also a love story, and Buddy’s love interest is Jovie, played by Amber Smith.
“She has a voice that will bring down the house,” Graves said. “Her voice is just unbelievable and she just belts out those notes.”
There is also a Gas Lamp tradition afoot in “Elf.”
“There’s usually a musical number in our shows sung by a group of male singers,” Graves said. “They always come out for Gas Lamp main stage shows. For this show, it’s our fake Santas singing, ‘Nobody Cares About Santa.’ On Broadway, these Santas are in their 20s. But here, we have middle-aged men playing them, and they sing and dance their hearts out. That’s what makes Gas Lamp unique. We have all ages in this show. I love seeing this happen.”
“Elf” will be performed Friday, Dec. 9, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 10, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 11, at 2 p.m. Running time, without intermission, is approximately two hours. An admission fee will be charged. For further information, visit gaslampplayers.org.