July 24th, 2024

New West raising the curtain on ‘Elf: The Musical’

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on December 14, 2023.

Kevin Owen Clarke, in the role of Buddy, along with the cast of New West Theatre's production of "Elf: The Musical" will be staging the holiday tale starting today through Dec. 31 at the Yates Memorial Theatre. Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

New West Theatre, in a co-production with the Enmax Centre, is adapting a beloved Christmas movie to musical theatre to spread some holiday cheer in a hilarious way.

“Elf: The Musical” is based on the Christmas movie “Elf” which follows the adventures of Buddy, a human raised as an elf, as he embarks on a quest to find his true identity and bring the magic of Christmas back to New York City.

Artistic director for New West Theatre and director of “Elf: The Musical” Kelly Reay told reporters Tuesday the production has been in the works for a few years and it is finally coming to fruition.

“It is immensely satisfying to see this show come to fruition. New West Theatre, we’re a small to medium size theatre company and this is the biggest show we’ve ever done, and it’s a giant musical, and it’s going very well. Everyone on stage, everyone behind the scenes, everyone in the office is working incredibly hard, 12-hour days, three weeks or rehearsal, we started pre-production six months ago, so it’s all coming to fruition and it’s incredibly rewarding,” said Reay.

When it comes to the casting process Reay says it was fairly easy because the vast majority of the cast is local – the exception being Kevin Owen Clarke who is here from Toronto to play Buddy.

“He is an actor who’s been on our stages several times before – he’s one of us, and the rest of the cast is all from Lethbridge and surrounding area. There are 19 core cast members, an ensemble of six children, plus one young actor who plays one of the lead roles as well, so it’s the biggest cast we’ve ever had,” said Reay.

Reay said the musical follows the original movie storyline, noting it is an iconic story that many are familiar with.

“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. So many times you do plays and you put your own interpretation on it, we didn’t feel that pressure to try and reinterpret it, we’re embracing what people expect and embracing the story, embracing the characters and doing it to our best ability with some fantastic choreography, a beautiful set and costume designs, but the core of the story will be very familiar to those who already know the story,” said Reay.

 He added that for those who are not familiar with the story it will be really easy to follow along and to fall in love with.

After running through a scene, Kevin Owen Clarke who will be playing Buddy the elf and Scott Carpenter who will be playing Santa Claus, spoke to reporters about the production and both mentioned how much fun they are having.

“As goofy as you just saw is as goofy as rehearsals have been, a lot of fun. These are great people,” said Carpenter while Clarke added “it’s a labour of love and it’s a very feel-good musical, so we’re all happy to come to work every day, and it’s really quite a nice experience.”

When asked about if he encountered any challenges staying in character, due to the extra happy and always bubbly nature of Buddy, Clarke said he feels very lucky to be naturally happy and that has helped him portray his character.

“I felt very inclined for this part already. It’s challenging when there’s 12-hour days and long rehearsals, but we’re putting on a beautiful and fun show, so it’s easy to be happy all the time,” said Clarke.

He said they hope this production helps those in attendance rediscover their child-like wonder as he believes his character Buddy personifies that message.

“That Christmas heart and spirit that we all have, and sometimes when we get older we get a little bit jaded around Christmas, but then we have kids or we have kids in our lives and we see that happiness through their eyes, so I think re-finding that childlike wonder,” said Clarke.

Clarke and Carpenter both said they are looking forward to performing in front of an audience because countless hours have been spent performing to an empty theatre.

“I can hardly wait for an audience, we’ve been playing to an empty house. So getting to play to sold-out audiences is going to be so much fun. That energy is just going to feed us,” said Carpenter.

“Elf: The Musical” runs today to Dec. 31 at the Yates Memorial Theatre.

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