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Christmas is coming to Providence early this year. The national tour of "Elf the Musical" began its one-week stint at the Providence Performing Arts Center Sunday.

"Elf the Musical" is based on the 2003 hit comedy "Elf," starring Will Ferrell, and closely follows the film's tale of Buddy the elf. As a baby, Buddy crawls into Santa's sack of toys and is subsequently raised by elves in the North Pole. Though he grows to the size of an adult man, Buddy continues to believe he is an elf. Eventually, it becomes apparent to Buddy that he is human, and when Santa reveals that his true father is living in New York City, Buddy embarks upon an adventure to reconnect with him. Buddy arrives in the Big Apple right before Christmas - still dressed and acting like an elf - and heartwarming hilarity ensues.

This is the plot of both the film and musical, and yet, a word of caution: If you are looking for Will Ferrell's "Elf," this play is not it. While the plot, characters, setting and even many of the jokes are the same, their delivery is not. Brandon Vorrius '14 said the musical, unlike the movie, takes on a childish tone. The extremely bright, colorful set pieces, dances and music, are strong on their own but do not fit with the more comedic aspects of the musical. The actors embrace their storybook caricatures rather than more realistic characters, taking away from the comedic absurdity captured by the film. 

The difference is best encapsulated by the musical's lead, Matt Kopec. His version of Buddy, in sharp contrast to Will Ferrell's, is not six feet tall or even slightly overweight, but rather a young skinny guy with a high voice. As Vorrius commented, he "could have actually been an elf." The overall effect is that the musical becomes less of a raucous comedy and more of a traditional Christmas tale. 

When taken as a holiday story and not as a Will Ferrell-style comedy, "Elf the Musical" is highly entertaining. Some of the jokes from the film are still spot-on, even if their delivery is different. Certain scenes, such as Kopec's attack on the fake Santa, are particularly funny onstage, and a few of the characters - Clyde Voce as the Macy's manager and Jen Bechter as Deb the secretary - are absolutely hilarious. 

Most importantly, with holiday songs played alongside set pieces that are invocative of snowy and festive New York City, the musical will put its viewers in the holiday spirit.


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