Elf: The Broadway Musical at the Schuster Center

By Tim Smith

Photo: Spenser Micetich as Buddy the Elf; photo: Joan Marcus

The holiday season offers many reminders about the importance of giving, believing, and being young at heart. Elf: The Broadway Musical serves up a generous helping of this recipe set to music. Based on the popular 2003 film “Elf” starring Will Ferrell as Buddy, an infant raised by Santa’s helpers, the show has performed to sold-out audiences the world over. The current touring company will call the Schuster Center home beginning Nov. 22.

The show features Spenser Micetich as Buddy the Elf, with Daisy Carnelia playing the love interest, Jovie. Stage veterans Rachel Bahler, Morgan Billings Smith, Mark Fishback, and Mark A. Harmon round out the cast. Carnelia signed on for her role without much prompting.

“I really liked the idea of being a part of something that makes people so happy,” Carnelia says. “It truly is a privilege to play a part in the holiday traditions of so many! I’ve also loved the character of Jovie ever since I saw the movie as a kid. I think she’s an interesting character that many women relate to.”

The stage version of the perennial film favorite originally ran on Broadway in the 2010—2011 season, breaking existing box office records. The book was adapted from the film by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin. The music is courtesy of Tony award-winning composers Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, and includes songs such as “I’ll Believe in You” and “Never Fall in Love.” The show was successfully revived in 2012. Since then it has toured nationally each year, introducing the production to new audiences. It was also adapted as a stop-action animated holiday special on NBC in 2014, where it incorporated many of the songs from the original production, as well as the voices of some of the actors from the film.

Carnelia comes to the role after honing her craft on New York stages and in concert venues large and small. A graduate of the Circle in the Square School, she was named 2014’s Broadway Rising Star. She found the collaborative process between cast and creative staff an easy one, involving a lot of give and take.

“It’s been a dream working with Sam Scalamoni and Connor Gallagher (our director and choreographer) who both have been with the Elf tour since the beginning,” she says. “They have allowed us to bring a part of ourselves to these amazing characters so that we are not improvising the movie actors but bringing our own interpretation to the characters. The first time we ran through the complete first act was surreal. I hadn’t seen any of the production numbers yet, and it’s been so exciting to watch it all come together!

“At first I was nervous about taking on this iconic holiday character that everyone knows so well from the movie,” she adds. “But our creatives have given us the freedom to bring ourselves to these characters, so the challenge has turned into a rewarding experience. I think we all approach our roles with a little bit of individuality. There’s a little bit of me in Jovie just like there’s a little bit of Spenser in Buddy.”

Carnelia’s background helped to prepare her for the role, but not necessarily the rigors of a 20-city national tour.

“I’m a real homebody so when I found out I’d be touring during the holiday season it was bittersweet,” she says. “But as soon as we started the rehearsal process it became clear that this was going to be an extremely unique and very special experience. This is now my family away from my family and how exciting is it to bring holiday joy to thousands around the country!

“I’m a born and raised New York City girl with two musical theatre parents so in most ways I’m in the family business,” she continues. “My last project could not have been more different from this one. It was an immersive musical done in a warehouse in Brooklyn. Completely different but each experience prepares you for the next.”

There has been a recent trend of turning favorite non-musical holiday films such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story” into musical stage productions. Carnelia offers a possible explanation for reimagining a beloved film for the theatre.

“Christmas stories bring joy to so many people, as do musicals,” she says. “I think it makes complete sense to combine the two. Adding music to our holiday favorites just gives us more reasons to enjoy them.”

In addition to having a memorable theatre experience, Carnelia would like audiences to take away something significant from the show.

“I hope that people leave with a revived sense of Christmas spirit,” she says. “It’s two hours of snow, Santa and pure joy.! Is there life after Elf? I hope so but until then, I’ll be belting it out every night with this fabulous cast.”

Elf: The Broadway Musical will be presented at the Schuster Center, 1 West Second St. in downtown Dayton from Nov. 22, 23, 25 and 26 at 8 p.m.; Nov. 25, 26, 27 at 2 p.m.; and Nov. 27 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $30.00 and can be obtained at Ticketcenterstage.com. For more information please visit VictoriaTheatre.com.


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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at TimSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com

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