(Alexandria, MN) I'm not sure the last time I've smiled as much during a performance. As someone in the media we get the privilege of seeing the Andria Theatre performances in advance. Admittedly it can sometimes be a bit odd without the rest of the crowd to laugh, cry and/or clap with, but in this instance, it did not matter. The latest show, "Elf - the Musical" was such a treat. As we sat there during last week's preview night, the production was still working through some set changes, light and sound cues, the actors were fine-tuning their entrances and exits, trying to remember their lines, yet,... after all it is still a rehearsal. None of that mattered; it was fantastic. "Elf" opens up this Thursday night to the theatre's fastest sellout in recent history, and perhaps ever. The theatre even added a ninth show on Wednesday December 15th, and almost immediately that sold out too. What is it about this show that is such a draw? I talked briefly with the show's director Donna Magnuson about it prior to Thursday's rehearsal.
ELF is the hilarious tale of Buddy, a young orphan who mistakenly crawls into Santa's bag of gifts and is transported to the North Pole.
Buddy is raised unaware that he is actually a human, until his enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth. With Santa's permission, Buddy embarks on a journey to New York City to find his birth father and discover his true identity.
Faced with the harsh reality that his father is on the naughty list and his stepsister doesn't even believe in Santa, Buddy is determined to win over his new family and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas.
For "Elf - the Musical" to work it relies on a good cast of characters, good costumes and a colorful set. But let's be honest, without a good "Buddy", the show would have a much more difficult time in gaining momentum than it has. Donna cast Patrick Sieve in that role. Although a handful of people may recall his colorful work as the Pharaoh many years ago in Jefferson High School's "Joseph"; more simply know him as the cheerful, fun front man at Traveler's Inn or Nice Juicery, both in downtown Alexandria. Patrick, a husband and a father of three, also has an infectious smile, a positive attitude and mountains of energy. That description fits nicely into what one would like from someone stepping into a role popularized by Will Ferrell in the movie, "Elf." Although the movie and the musical are not identical, they walk a pretty similar path. Sieve also happens to have a great singing voice that adds a little extra frosting to the show. Add to that an excellent portrayal of Santa Claus by Kevin Lee, a delightfully quiet newcomer in Brianna Vamum who plays Buddy's love interest Jovie to a T, a host of talented and entertaining elves, a young Michelle Hobbs played wonderfully by Kylee Dummer, a mother (Emily Hobbs) who is endearing and charming, played by Leah Drexler, the introduction of another great singing voice in Eric Schmidt (who plays Walter Hobbs), a convincing job by Felicia Frederickson as the hard-nosed corporate pitbull Ms. Greenway, and countless other wonderful cast members and moments. By not mentioning everyone seems unfair, but if I tell you of all the great performances and talented actors, you may miss your curtain time. The choreography is really well done and adds a lot of life to the show. The music is not familiar, but does a great job of defining the characters and moving the story along. Perhaps you've gotten the hint; I really liked it and I believe you will too.
Donna Magnuson along with actors Kevin Lee, Patrick Sieve, young Hazel Eken and costume designer Molly Eken all were guests on KXRA's November 29th Open Line program. Here is the audio recording of the program.
The sold out show will be on the Andria stage December 9th-11th, 15th-18th at 7:30pm and then on Sundays Dec 12th and 19th at 2:00pm. Unique to this show is the Andria Theatre's latest technology. With the addition of three 4K cameras in the theatre, you will be provided another opportunity to see the show during the second week of the show's run. The recorded performance will be sold through the www.andriatheatre.org website as a pay per view streaming event. The option to buy a viewing of the show will become available on Monday, December 13th. Once purchased, you will be able to view the show (as if live) at 7:30pm December 15-19th, based on the night you select.
Here is the entire cast of talented cast and crew for the show:
- Buddy Hobbs: Patrick Sieve
- Santa Claus: Kevin Lee
- Mrs. Claus: Trinessa Spanswick
- Walter Hobbs: Eric Schmidt
- Deb: Ari Janssen
- Emily Hobbs: Leah Drexler
- Michelle Hobbs: Kylee Dummer
- Jovie: Brianna Vamum
- Macy’s Manager: Misty Hunter
- Greenway: Felicia Fredrickson
Christmas Town Elves: Clarie Eken; Fiona Schmidt; Gavyn Schmidt; Jayme O’Brien; Lily Eken; Olivia Zollner; Grace Shurson; Lucy Gustafson
New Yorkers: Blake Steussy; Brian Fleming; Brody Uhlenkamp; Greg Raether; Hazel Eken; Kathryn Tomson; Linnea Hoven; Madi Roering; Mia Meier; Nick Zabroski; Sam Swensrud
- Director: Donna Magnuson
- Music Director/Sound Design: Greg Raether
- Vocal Coach: Heather Hjelle
- Choreographer: Christine Reilly
- Asst. Director/Make-up & Hair Design: Maryn Cabinaw
- Set Design/Construction: Greg Bohl
- Props/set décor/ Stage Mgr: Hilary Ninman
- Costume Design/ Construction: Molly Eken
- Costume Asst: BreAnn Neiger
- Lighting Tech: Jen Raether
- Sound Tech: Bryce Gall
- Projectionist: Claudia Bursch
- Music Tracks: Malore Reather
- Video Producer: David Christman