Elf (Plymouth Theatre Royal)
Ideal for excited children and jaded parents alike, Elf is packed full of Christmas cheer, razzmatazz and magic.
The Theatre Royal Plymouth has joined forces with Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Michael Rose and U-Live to bring a polished, much-anticipated high-end musical to get the festive ball rolling. With more elves, Santas, baubles and tinsel than you can shake a candy cane at, Tim Goodchild's production, directed and choreographed by Morgan Young, is glossy, slick and great fun.
With star of the film Will Ferrell's big, curly-toed, boots to fill, Ben Forster (2012 Superstar winner) is more than able as an energetic Buddy whose enthusiasm is infectious.
With inadequate toy-making skills and a 6ft-something stature, Santa's eponymous slow-on-the-uptake helper realises his human provenance and leaves the sugar-infused Christmas Town to search for his real father in the cynical, rotten Big Apple.
And en route Santa hopes he will remind all of the true meaning of Christmas (there's no religious overtones here – we're talking festive spirit, love and giving) so powering his reindeer-less (thanks to the Animal Rights Movement) flying sleigh… just you wait.
Like Babe and Crocodile Dundee before him, Buddy's naivety trails mayhem and misunderstanding through the city in his glittering wake as he decorates Maceys, unbeards fake Father Christmases, makes snow from priceless manuscripts and generally spreads good cheer.
A tremendous ensemble hoofs and sings in myriad guises – elves, shop assistants, skaters, office staff, TV hanger-ons and more while Jennie Dale shimmies superbly as office manager Deb, and Graham Lappin is a mean Maceys' manager turned FC.
Local lads are lined up as Michael on different night with Bailey Cameron excelling on Press night.
Plymouth's TR2 has pulled out the stops with Tim Goodchild's tremendous sets slickly switching between the North Pole and Empire State Building, busy city streets and quiet penthouse, downbeat Chinese restaurant and upbeat department store. And Ian William Galloway video backdrops completes the transformation for quick, slick scene changes. Excellent.
There's nothing better than a live orchestra and here, under the direction of Stuart Morley, Matthew Sklar's pacy score underscores a set of catchy new Christmas songs.
All the ingredients of a modern classic which will undoubtedly get better and better as it beds in.