Friday, 11 December 2015


The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear

Written by Richard Barber
Richard-Barber-colour-176The man on my left was really quite excited. He'd seen the 2003 film version of Elf starring Will Ferrell which had been pitched just right, apparently, with gags to please the kiddlywinks but with enough sly asides to cheer up mums and dads. He was about to be disappointed.

No, of course Elf isn't for me with its cheesy tale of the world rediscovering enough Christmas spirit to power Santa's sleigh. But, while it isn't quite a (festive) turkey, it just isn't very good.

Our hero, Buddy, crawled into Santa's sack as a baby and was promptly whisked back to the North Pole and raised as a rather large elf. Three decades later, he's back in Manhattan to meet his birth father (Joe McGann whose growly delivery suits his dialogue rather better than his singing) and to fall in love, as it turns out, with Jovie who's working in the Christmas grotto at Macy's.

She's played by Kimberley Walsh which created some excitement on the opening night when two of her erstwhile Girls Aloud band members – Cheryl and Nicola – whooped and hollered from the luxury of their box when she made her first appearance. Kimberley is very pretty, she smiles a lot, she can sing in tune. What's not to like?

But it's Ben Forster's evening. An erstwhile winner of an ITV talent contest to find the next Jesus Christ Superstar, you can't fault his commitment or his powerful singing. In the normal course of events, Buddy's hugely irritating man/child persona would almost certainly get him sectioned, a stupid comment, I know, but the fact it crossed my mind is clear evidence I was never in danger of suspending my disbelief.

There's nice work from the ever-dependable Jessica Martin as Buddy's stepmother and a confident turn from young Ilan Galkoff as his half-brother. But there are some strange anomalies as the story unfolds. It's played American which is fine but why then is Santa Claus (Mark McKerracher) watching a football match between Arsenal and Chelsea? And a British audience is going to struggle with references to Billy Crystal and, particularly, Dr Phil.

The score is in-one-ear-and-out-the-other. The dancing just about passes muster. The scene changes are a bit clunky. But stop, I shall be muttering Bah! Humbug!, if I'm not careful. Suffice to say that, if you have little people in your lives (children, not elves) and you're prepared to dig deep – the top-priced seats are an eye-watering £240 – this just about qualifies as good, old-fashioned family entertainment. Just about.

Elf is booking at the Dominion until January 2: 0845 200 7982 or via

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