Paramount splashes on the spectacle for delightful musical 'Elf'

“Elf the Musical” - ★ ★ ★ ½

Aurora's Paramount Theatre has scored another crowd-pleasing hit for the holidays with “Elf the Musical,” a magical Broadway-caliber production that bursts with silly slapstick humor and slick stage spectacle.

Like the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire's acclaimed 2015 take on the same show, Paramount's “Elf” far outshines the lackluster Broadway tour that played Chicago back in 2013. As a 2010 screen-to-stage adaptation of the popular 2003 Will Ferrell film, “Elf” has a corporate manufactured feel about it - complete with product placements. But the Paramount production largely glosses over this aspect and zeros in on the fantastical story.

“Elf” revolves around Buddy (Kyle Adams), a human who was raised since infancy to be an elf at the North Pole. But when the overgrown Buddy can't keep up with the toy-building quotas of his fellow elves (hilarious in Theresa Ham's colorful visual-trick costumes), he is advised to head to New York by Santa (a sage Roger Mueller, reprising his same Marriott role). That's where Buddy seeks out his biological father, the children's book publisher Walter Hobbs (a hard-driving Michael Accardo).

Buddy the elf (Kyle Adams) spreads Christmas cheer at New York's flagship Macy's department store in "Elf the Musical." Courtesy of Thomas J. King/Paramount Theatre

What helps make “Elf” so amusing is seeing how the hopelessly naive, Christmas-loving Buddy initially stumbles before winning over jaded New Yorkers, including his newfound family (Lara Filip as his stepmother Emily and Oliver Boomer as his half-brother Michael). He lands at Macy's, where his exuberance gradually wins over department store co-workers (Samantha Pauly as the reluctant love interest Jovie and Jonathan Butler-Duplessis as the aggrieved store manager).

Assisting Buddy in his onslaught of sugary holiday cheer are catchy “Elf” numbers such as “Sparklejollytwinklejingley” and “A Christmas Song” by composer Matthew Sklar and lyricist Chad Beguelin.

Buddy the elf (Kyle Adams) ice skates and sings "A Christmas Song" to impress Jovie (Samantha Pauly), seated, in Paramount Theatre's "Elf The Musical." Courtesy of Liz Lauren/Paramount Theatre

Casting a musical comedy like “Elf” is crucial, and director/choreographer Amber Mak has assembled an ensemble full of funny folks and dexterous dancers. Towering over the rest of the cast, the tall and long-limbed Adams triumphs as the endearing oddball Buddy. Whether he's executing awkward physical humor or blurting out eyebrow-raising innuendo in Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin's script, Adams' Buddy is a comedy delight.

“Elf” also features great character work from supporting players. George Keating is rightfully loathsome as the market-driven publishing executive Mr. Greenway (and as an aggressive fake Santa), while Emily Agy (filling in for Rashada Dawan on opening night) does well as the scheduling-pro secretary, Deb.

The Hobbs family (Lara Filip, Michael Accardo and Oliver Boomer) look on as Buddy the elf (Kyle Adams) tries to help a grounded Santa (Roger Mueller) in "Elf The Musical" at Aurora's Paramount Theatre. Courtesy of Liz Lauren/Paramount Theatre

Credit extends to Mak's “Elf” staging, an eye-popping marvel thanks to its clever and creative production design - and a highflying special effect. Jeffrey D. Kmiec's blocky sets are perfect canvasses for lighting designer Greg Hofmann and projection designer Joseph A. Burke to paint fantastical visions of both the colorful “Christmastown” and romantic New York locales. The visual clutter of Times Square and Rockefeller Center's ice skating rink are particularly impressive.

Paramount's “Elf” adroitly mixes a touch of seasonal cynicism in with its Christmas cheer. If, as with most holiday fare, the move from one to the other isn't always believable, so what? “Elf” delivers a Santa-size load of holiday entertainment, and Paramount's production is one to make local theater fans proud.

<b>Location:</b> Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, (630) 896-6666 or

<b>Showtimes:</b> 1:30 and 7 p.m. Wednesday (extra 1:30 p.m. matinees Nov. 30 and Dec. 22), 7 p.m. Thursday (also Dec. 12; noon and 5 p.m. Jan. 4), 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday (no evening show Dec. 24); through Jan. 7

<b>Tickets:</b> $36-$74

<b>Running time:</b> About 2 hours 30 minutes, with intermission

<b>Parking:</b> Nearby multilevel pay garage and limited area street parking

<b>Rating:</b> Some innuendo, but largely for general audiences

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