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Barn Theatre review: 'Elf' a fitting jumpstart to the holiday season

Barn Theatre review; production runs through Sunday, Dec. 19.

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Santa, played by Jordan Gatewood, and Mrs. Claus, played by Kristi Gatewood, read the story of "Elf" during a dress rehearsal of "Elf the Musical," which opens to the public Thursday, Dec. 4, 2021, and runs through Dec. 19. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with 2 p.m. Sunday performances. Contributed / Dennis Benson

The Thursday, Dec. 2, opening night performance of the Barn Theater's "Elf" was a fitting jumpstart to the holiday season.

This successful show with lots of pizazz is directed by Allen Clark, with stage manager Jan Buzzeo.

Reagan Toedter poignantly portrays Buddy (Elf) as a human raised by elves returning to New York City from the North Pole at the age of 30.

Early in his appearance, Buddy connects with the audience by walking up and down the aisle into the seats singing "Happy all the time."

Though Buddy is happy all the time, it turns out he is not good at fulfilling the role of toymaker for Santa like the other elves. When he finds out that he is a human β€” and that as a baby he climbed into Santa's bag and got taken to the North Pole β€” he wants to go back home and find his father.

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Wackiness and winsomeness follow and reign together in Buddy's discovery of his family and his first love, Jovie, played by Madison Anderson-Wilson.

Their discovery of each other is aptly summarized in the song Jovie sings, β€œNever Fall in Love with an Elf.”

Buddy's father, Walter Hobbs, played by Ben Watson; his new mother, Emily, played by Jennifer Bute in her debut role at the Barn; and Emma Wallace as his younger brother Michael, provide the family dynamics.

Emily and Michael are happy to welcome Buddy but Walter, who is caught up in work, rejects this sudden appearance of a son he didn't know he had.

Choreographer Claire Taylor-Schiller and vocal director Andrea Limoges shine in their roles. The variety of song and dance numbers with the colorful costumes add a professional feel to the show. Costumes are by Lynsey Pierce and Michaela Ehlers.

The office dancers making snow in the paper shredder to help Buddy feel at home, and the unemployed dancing Santa Clauses lamenting that "nobody cares about Santa Claus," are memorable scenes.

My favorite choreography and most unexpected was the cast coming out tap dancing.

Married in real life, the real Santa Claus, played by Jordan Gatewood, and Mrs. Claus, played by Kristi Gatewood, provide the narration to hold this bit of craziness all together.

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When Buddy has no money to buy a gift he asks Walter what he would like: "1,000 butterfly kisses or a bracelet made out of my hair?"

Go to the show and enjoy more moments like this.

The set was designed by Aane Twedt. Properties mistress is Cheri Buzzeo, with light design by Eric Harp, and the sound operators are Melissa Wallace and Bob Thompson.

With performances Thursday through Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. this week and next, there is still time to catch a show.

Kay Westlie is a longtime Willmar resident and Barn Theatre fan.

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