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Review Round-Ups

Did Elf spread Christmas cheer?

The West End production opened at the Dominion Theatre last night

Ben Forster as Buddy and Mark McKerracher as Santa
© Alastair Muir

Daisy Bowie-Sell, WhatsOnStage

★★★

"It's a horribly bland plot, which is pepped up by the charmingly idiotic Buddy."

"Ben Forster is the show's saving grace. Kooky, gawky, excitable and enthusiastic, Forster taps into a similar off-beat humour that Ferrell did. He delivers the jokes for the adults with a dead-pan innocence (‘I'd love to put you on top of my Christmas tree!') and he can certainly sing."

"Elf the Musical is no perfect snowflake, but, thanks to a strong turn from Forster it's not a total turkey either."

Michael Billington, The Guardian

★★

"The saving grace for me is Ben Forster, winner of ITV's talent-spotting Superstar, as Buddy. He bounds through the evening with an anarchic glee...sings the mostly anodyne songs with total conviction and has the priceless knack of getting on terms with an audience."

"That gift has sadly not been conferred on Kimberley Walsh who, for all her fame with Girls Aloud, cuts a curiously distant figure as Buddy's joyless girl-friend, Jovie."

"The score boasts one really good song, in which a group of department-store Santas bemoan the smartness of modern kids. Otherwise, this is a show that doesn't so much invoke the spirit of Christmas as market it."

Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

★★★

"This is a big, professional musical, seamlessly engineered, targeted at the Christmas family market with relentless commercialism."

"Kimberley Walsh plays Buddy's girlfriend and looks as moony-faced about this geek in the elf costume as it is possible to be. Mr Forster is an engaging stage presence, a mixture of Julian Clary and Harry Enfield. He carries the evening through its leaner patches."

"The occasional line raises a laugh - a shop-grotto Santa complains that kids these days just sit on your lap and text their friends, rather than asking for stocking presents. Wry moments such as that are outweighed by American cheese."

Ann Treneman, The Times

★★★★

"This is, truly, the Christmas cake of musicals. Director and choreographer Morgan Young and designer Tim Goodchild have thrown everything in."

"There's a wow factor to some of the musical numbers, such as when Buddy and Jovie make a song and dance about decorating Macy's, with a number called "Sparklejollytwinklejingley" (don't ask, only elves understand)."

"It has, in short, the magic that sends you out of the theatre smiling and singing."

Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out

★★

"The Superstar winner is a talented musical theatre actor who can hold the vast Dominion stage. But he's also a fairly diminutive chap – he looks a bit like an elf, frankly, and it kills a major plank of the film's comedy stone dead."

"His [Forster's] nominal co-star is Girls Aloud's Kimberley Walsh, who is decent enough as Buddy's grouchy love interest Jovie, but it's a tiny part – far smaller than Zooey Deschanel's in the film – and more or less leaves Forster to carry the entire thing."

"There is a bright-eyed peppiness to director-choreographer Morgan Young's production that is undeniably winsome, it looks lovely (kudos to video designer Ian William Galloway) and if you're taking your kids they'll almost certainly have fun."

Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard

★★★★

"Forster gives a committed lead performance for director/choreographer Morgan Young but, unfortunately, he hasn't got Buddy's tone quite right. Whereas Ferrell's mien was one of bemused innocence and determined good cheer in the big bad city, Forster has the inescapable air of a smart arse."

"The songs, by Matthew Sklar (music) and Chad Beguelin (lyrics), are nicely catchy, rarely a given in a new musical."

"Walsh is a delight in her too-few scenes, tuneful and engaging."


Elf runs at the Dominion Theatre until 2 January.

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