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Review: “Elf” is pure Christmas joy, a holiday must-see at MMT

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There is a Christmas present already under the tree this year and Thanksgiving is still weeks away.
The present is the current production of “Elf” at Music Mountain Theatre in Lambertville, N.J. The show runs until Nov. 21. It has the most wonderful story that is told to the audience by Santa Claus, who starts the show.
The show is based on the Will Farrell movie “Elf” from 2003, where Santa unintentionally takes a baby who climbed into his bag on Christmas as he was making his rounds and brings him to the North Pole. Buddy is the name of the little child and he grows up assuming he is an elf. He was told that. The elves raised him as one of their own.
But later, rather than sooner, he discovers he is a human. Over the next two hours, he goes to New York City to find his human family. Chaos ensues as he has only lived with elves and knows nothing about humans and their ways. He is a 12-year-old kid in a 30-year-old body. This musical is sure to put a smile on your face. It has an old-fashioned charm and a winsomeness that makes it a classic.

Patrick Mertz is Buddy and has become a name that is a guarantee that the show will be good if he is one of the leads. His wife, Kimberly Mertz, plays the female lead, Jovie, who I had not seen in a lead before at Music Mountain. She is an excellent actress and is perfection as the cynical ex-LA girl who trusts little. I want to see more of her onstage; she is that good. I could imagine her as Louise, for instance, in “Gypsy” if ever that opportunity would present itself. I know others must agree.
It took awhile for me to recognize MMT veteran Anna Hentz, as Buddy’s step-mom, Emily Hobb. She knocks this role out of the park. Along with the delightful Gavin Prikril as Buddy’s step-brother Michael, they tear through the song “There Is a Santa Claus,” with such a loving, joyful ferocity that it stops the show.
Jonathan Wierzbicki as Buddy’s dad, Walter Hobbs, has the exact recipe of a heartless, money-driven boss with small remnants of a soft center buried inside. Kudos to David McCloughan Jr as Santa Claus, Rachel Fingels as Deb (Walter Hobb’s secretary), Lynn Baskin as Mr. Greenway (Walter’s boss) and Lauren Waksman as The Department Store Manager.
Louis Palena directed this amazing cast and gave us a real holiday treat. The choreography, costumes, lighting and set were all complicit in creating such holiday joy. Audiences leave with a never-ending smile and good joy to all. Do not miss this one. Not going and depriving yourself of all this wide-eyed wonder and magic would be like being OK with getting coal in your sock. Don’t do it. Tickets are available at musicmountaintheatre.org.


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