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Christmas musical aims to reignite childlike holiday spirit

According to what some would call a favourite Christmas movie “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear,” and that is what members of New West Theatre are looking to do.

From December 14th to December 31st, the local theatre group and ENMAX Centre are putting on Elf the Musical. Artistic Director of New West Theatre and director of the musical Kelly Reay says that conversations about putting on a production of this size started before the COVID-19 pandemic with ENMAX Centre Manager Kim Gallucci.

“Kim at the time had a desire to try to create a local tradition similar to in other Centres where they do A Christmas Carol, or you know they have big shows that come back every year. So we thought we would test the waters and try to do a big Christmas musical,” Reay says. “Elf is such a beloved, honoured Christmas classic. Our tickets are selling so quickly because people love this show, people love this story.”

Scott Carpenter plays the role of Santa Clause in the production says for many watching the Will Ferrell movie is part of their Christmas traditions, and for those people the musical follows the movie very closely.

“Through a musical, though you can jump scenes really quickly, or wrap up a storyline in two lines, so it changes a little bit,” Carpenter says. “It is goofier, it is a little more musical.”

Kevin Owen Clarke plays the part of Buddy the Elf and says when the musical originally came out he first thought it was a role he could portray, so when Reay called and offered him the part he was eager to jump at the opportunity to portray the high energy character.

“I feel very lucky that I feel naturally very happy, I felt very inclined for this part already. You know it can be challenging when there are 12-hour days and long rehearsals but we are putting on a beautiful fun show so it is easy to be happy, all the time.”

Clarke adds that he hopes those who come to watch the show are inspired to find their inner child-like wonder for the Christmas season.

“I think that is what Buddy the Elf kind of personifies, that Christmas heart and spirit that we all kind of have, and sometimes when we get older we get kind of jaded around Christmas. But then we have kids or we have kids in our lives and we see the happiness through their eyes.”

“You talk about childlike wonder, this show has so much of it in it, it is just going to be infectious I think,” Carpenter adds.

Aside from Clarke who is from Toronto, the remaining 18 members of the core cast and the six youth that make up the child ensemble are from Lethbridge or surrounding communities. Reay adds that while this is the biggest production the company has ever put on, it also has the largest cast they have ever worked with. While rehearsals for the musical started in November, the pre-production work has been going on for over a year. The director explains there are hundreds of hours in putting the show together.

“One of the values that we identified early on in the process, knowing that it was going to be a lot of hard work, knowing that it was going to be hectic, very big. We made a commitment that this would be fun, and we remind ourselves frequently,” Raey says. “We have the luxury, the pleasure of getting to do make-believe for a living as theatre artists and so we can’t take that for granted.”

Elf the Musical runs December 14th to 31st, with no shows on Sunday or Monday. Up until Christmas, the show is mostly sold out with pockets of availability between Christmas and New Year’s. More information can be found on the ENMAX Centre website.

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