‘Elf Jr.’ spreads Christmas cheer in Dover

mily Peppard, 14, of Dover, plays the lead role of Buddy the elf, in the Children’s Theatre production of “Elf: The Musical Jr.” playing Saturday and Sunday at the Schwartz Center for the Arts in Dover. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

DOVER – The tale of a human raised by Christmas elves takes the stage this weekend with “Elf: The Musical, Jr.” performed by the Children’s Theatre.

This production of “Elf,” based on the classic Will Ferrell movie, is the first Christmas musical the Children’s Theatre has put on.

“I chose it because the movie is a family favorite. Our kids know the storyline and enjoy working on it as a team,” director Sharon Crossen said. “Because this is a musical, which the movie is not, our children are learning choreography and vocals, in addition to standard acting.”

Assisting Mrs. Crossen with the show is student director 16-year-old Niko Mandalas.

Leah Arndt plays dual roles as Elf No. 7 and a Macy’s employee.

“It’s my first time directing and it’s been really fun to try something new and to expand my knowledge and experience in theater,” he said. “And it’s been great learning from Mrs. Crossen because she’s my favorite director and I’ve always loved being in her shows.”

Niko also plays the role of Walter Hobbs, father of the main character, Buddy.

“He has the same personality as the character in the movie, so he’s grouchy and doesn’t value family as much as he should and he doesn’t love Christmas,” he said. “But he does have a realization about changing his ways through song, which is a lot more fun than just talking it through in dialogue.”

Walter Hobbs’ initial feelings about Christmas are reinforced by his boss Mr. Greenway.

The cast of “Elf: The Musical Jr.”. It’s the story of Buddy, who is raised by Santa’s elves and sets out to find his real father in New York after he finds out he is actually human.

“He treats his employees poorly and makes a big deal about not celebrating Christmas,” said Ace Clark, 15, of Dover, portraying Mr. Greenway. “I really like it though because he’s so different from who I am so I get to take a risk being someone new and get the chance to develop all the nuances of Mr. Greenway and all the little things that make him unique.”

Claire Juneau, 14 of Dover, plays Jovie, a character with a similar arc as Walter Hobbs.

“She’s basically like the Grinch of the show,” she said. “But like most of the characters, Buddy convinces her how fun Christmas can be.”

Emily Peppard, 14 of Dover, portraying the lead role of Buddy the elf, loves the tone of the musical.

Jovie, played by Claire Juneau, peers through a snow crystal during rehearsal.

“Having such an enthusiastic character can be exciting and tiring, but it’s something that doesn’t get old because the show is so fun and everyone is always left in good spirits after rehearsal,” she said.

Emily said she’s pretty laid back naturally so it’s been a fun challenge to play a character so different from herself.

The role is her first lead with the Children’s Theatre and she’s featured in all but two scenes, giving her the opportunity to work with almost every actor in the show.

“Typically you only work with a few other actors and bond with the people you share scenes with. But in this show, I’ve been able to work closely with everyone and get to know every person here,” she said.

Show time comes with a lot of nerves for most of the actors, but they all have a way of beating their stage fright.

Athena Falu plays the part of Elf No. 5. Tickets for the show are $10 and can be obtained at Eventbrite.com or at the door.

“There’s such a trust here and it’s always a judgement-free zone so you know everyone is going to be happy with you as long as you do the best you can,” said Sarah Falu, 11 of Camden.

“Of course we all hope the show goes perfectly, but we know if there are any tiny mistakes, it will be OK.”

“Elf Jr.” will take the stage at the Schwartz Center for the Arts, 226 S. State St. in Dover, Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $10 and available at the box office or online at Eventbrite.com.

Ashton Brown is a freelance writer living in Dover.

Santa, played by Jude Quinene, is surrounded by dancing elves in the Children’s Theatre’s production of “Elf: The Musical, Jr.”
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