David Hussey & J.R. Stuart. Photo: DDP

Elf: The Musical

Book by Thomas Meehan & Bob Martin
Music and Lyrics by Matthew Sklar & Chad Beguelin
Directed by Lee Buckholz
Musical Direction by Scott Bradley
Choreography by Heather Paige Folsom

A review by Jason Roseberry

Entire contents are copyright © 2019 by Jason Roseberry. All rights reserved.

Derby Dinner Playhouse has earned a reputation in the Kentuckiana area for putting on excellent productions that audiences really enjoy, and their production of Elf: The Musical certainly reinforces this reputation.  Elf is based on the 2003 film featuring Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf.  The musical ran on Broadway during the holidays in 2010, and, once again, in 2012, and broke box office records at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.

In Elf, Buddy (David Hussey), mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts as an orphan and is transported to the North Pole. Buddy does not become aware of his lack of elf skills until overhearing a conversation between some elves about his lack of toy-making skills.  Santa (J.R. Stuart) then helps Buddy embark on a journey to NYC to find his birth father (Brian Bowman), but he soon learns that his father is on the naughty list and his half-brother Michael (Josiah Richardson) doesn’t even believe in Santa Claus. Along the way, Buddy makes a new friend, Jovie (Kaylee Annable) and goes out of his way to win over his new family and help NYC remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Elf: The Musical generally follows the plot of the movie, however it does make some detail changes that are more conducive to a stage production, and honestly improves upon the source material in many ways.  If you are as big of a fan of the Will Ferrell movie as I am, have no fear – your favorite lines and gags are still intact. The biggest burden falls on the shoulders of Hussey as Buddy. Many of us can picture and hear Ferrell’s delivery of every line from the movie, and a lesser comedian would have attempted to bottle Ferrell’s performance.  Instead, Hussey finds a new path and an adorkable version of the character that is effective while still keeping within the spirit of Buddy that we know and love.

The Derby cast, as always, is top-notch.  J.R. Stuart is a perfect Santa Claus, Bobby Conte is hilarious as Manager, Jillian Prefach and Josiah Richardson are a dynamic duo as Emily and Michael Hobbs, and Brian Bowman hits all of his marks as the Scroogesque figure, Walter Hobbs.  Kaylee Annable (whose impressive vocal “edge” worked so beautifully for Wednesday in The Addams Family) comes off a bit cold here, but her Jovie ends up winning us over in the end.

Derby Dinner’s Elf: The Musical is a dreamy, ephemeral, wonderland of production and a thoroughly enjoyable way to celebrate the holidays with your family and friends.  Every song is lighter and fluffier than the one before with intoxicating tunes, sparkling costumes, and mesmerizing choreography. I often caught myself with a giant goofy grin during the show, and I’m okay with that.  “I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite.”

Elf: The Musical

November 13 – December 31, 2019

Tickets are available by visiting derbydinner.com or calling 812-288-8281.

Derby Dinner Playhouse
525 Marriott Drive
Clarksville, IN 47129


Dr. Jason Roseberry is the Artistic Director of TheatreWorks of Southern Indiana, an alumnus of the Actors Theatre of Louisville Acting Apprentice program, and a past director at Silver Creek High School. Jason is also a playwright and lyricist. Some of his produced plays and musicals include: “Burke and Hare”, and “E.A. Poe, Into the Mind of Madness” both at (Edinburgh, Scotland Fringe Festival),”The Red Room” Off-Broadway, Louisville Repertory Company, (Humana Festival/Heideman Award Finalist), “The Invisible Man” (Actor’s Theatre of Louisville), “Finders Keepers” (OOB-Expanded Arts, Kitchen Sink Festival Winner), “Freshman Year” (Ball State University), and “Romeo & Rosaline” (SCHS, Indiana Thespian Festival). Jason is currently the Chief Innovation Officer for Five-Star Technology Solutions, an educational technology company.