Buddy the human who thinks he’s an elf and Ralphie the boy who dreams of a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun are two cinematic holiday favorites. But when such beloved characters take to the stage, the results are either going to utterly delightful or truly awful. This TravelingMom found two shows — one featuring Buddy and the other telling Ralphie’s story — were both a delight.
Holiday Movies on Stage
Christmas traditions in our house include reconnecting with two holiday favorites—Buddy the Elf who is really a human and Ralphie the kid who simply must have a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun, even though his mom and every other adult in his life warns he will shoot his eye out.
These characters are near and dear to our hearts. So, when we heard that “Elf” and “A Christmas Story” had been translated to the stage, we approached both with equal parts excitement and dread.
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Turns out the worry was for naught. Both transitioned well and are worth a trip if you happen to be traveling to a city that is offering either on stage.
Buddy the Elf
This show, “Elf The Musical,” is currently on stage at the venerable Paramount Theater in Aurora, Illinois, a far western suburb of Chicago. It features Kyle Adams as Buddy, the human who was raised as an elf. This 6+ footer with the long skinny arms and legs is not Will Ferrell, but, like Ferrell, he’s a joy to watch. His goofy look, gangly dancing and innocent, joyous face make it easy to see him as the sweet elf he portrays.
The show takes some liberties with the original story, but none left my daughter or I feeling cheated. For example, when Buddy messes up and makes Dad mad, it’s not by getting drunk in the mail room, but rather by shredding an important children’s book manuscript to make “snow.” A talented Roger Mueller as Santa narrates and moves the story along.
The elves who open the show are a mix of kids and adults. They do some fancy (and impressive) dancing, considering the adults are on their knees wearing costumes that make it look like they are walking around.
It starts when Buddy was a baby. He crawls into Santa’s sack of presents and is whisked away to the North Pole. Shocked to find a human among them, the elves chose to raise Buddy as one of their own—only the human elf continues to grow, and grow, and never quite gets the hang of toy building.
Despite the elves’ best efforts, Buddy discovers that he isn’t an elf. He’s a human. And his dad lives in a far away land called New York City. Buddy sets off to meet his dad whom, he is sure, will love him. But Dad is a Scrooge-like workaholic who doesn’t even spend time with the son he has known all his life. He is not pleased to meet a 30-year-old son he never knew he had.
Buddy’s sweet nature and love for Christmas never waivers and he manages to win over his dad, get the girl, unite his family and conjure up enough Christmas spirit in New York City to get Santa’s sleigh flying again.
Worth the Drive to Aurora
Aurora is the second largest city in Illinois and one of Chicago’s oldest suburbs. It’s a long, 42-mile drive from the center city. With so much great theater available in the city itself, it might not make sense to drive out for Buddy the Elf, especially if you only have a few days in Chicago. But, if you’re staying out in the western suburbs, you’re in town for a longer stay or you just love Buddy, take the drive.
There was only one thing I wish had been different. At the end of the show, I wanted to help the cast “sing out loud for all to hear” to power Santa’s sleigh with Christmas spirit. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead, the few actors on the stage sang and we all waved goodbye as Santa’s sleigh sailed over our heads toward the balcony seats. We still left filled with warm Christmas spirit, but it would have been an even warmer feeling if we had been invited to join in a rousing rendition of Jingle Bells or Santa is Coming to Town.
Elf The Musical Details
The show was originally produced by Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures in association with Unique Features. It ran on Broadway in the Christmas seasons of 2010-11 and 2012-13 and toured the U.S. in 2012 and 2014.
Elf the Musical is on stage at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, Illinois, through January 7, 2018. Single tickets are $38 to $74. The award-winning theater offers Broadway-quality shows to packed houses. It is the third largest subscription house in the nation.
Ralphie’s A Christmas Story on Stage
My pal, Ralphie also has been lighting up the stage. I saw it a few years ago in Chicago. I approached “A Christmas Story, the Musical” with even more trepidation than I had for “Elf The Musical.” That’s probably because A Christmas Story has been a part of my family’s life for 30 years. We even have a leg lamp for our front window.
Compared to that, Buddy the Elf is a recent interloper to our family holidays.
But, again, my fears turned out to be unfounded. The stage play follows the story very closely, complete with the teacher turning into a witch as she shouts at Ralphie: “You’ll shoot your eye out, you’ll shoot your eye out!”
I Triple Dog Dare You
Unfortunately for me, A Christmas Story is not coming to Chicago this year. Instead, it’s on a tour around the country. But I saw the show a few years ago when it was in Chicago and I would go again, should I find myself in a city where the musical is playing. (If you won’t be near a live production, you can watch it live on Fox on Dec. 17, 2017.)
Here’s a short synopsis of this sweet story set in the 1940s:
Ralphie wants a BB gun for Christmas and strategizes how to get around the classic Mom block, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” His “Old Man” wins a “major award” and immediately puts the leg lamp in the front window, much to Mom’s dismay. Ralphie and friends face down the town bullies, triple dog dare a kid to test whether a tongue really will stick to a frozen flag pole, and head to Higbees Department Store to for an ill-fated meeting with Santa.
Along the way, Ralphie dreams of his life as a rifle-toting savior of his family and imagines himself returning home as an adult who suffered “soap blindness” from spending so much time having his mouth washed out with soap.
A Christmas Story Details
The show ran on Broadway, where it garnered three 2013 Tony Award nominations including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score. It also earned six Drama Desk nominations, and two Outer Critics Circle nominations.
Prices and showings vary around the country. Details are here.
Other Christmas Theater Shows for Families
If you’re more into traditional Christmas theater, Chicago’s Goodman Theatre offers an annual retelling of Scrooge’s story in “A Christmas Carol.” Be forewarned, however: The Goodman version of this classic story tends toward a dark presentation. I remember taking my daughter when she was about 8 and she was terrified by the dark and scary set.
Another option is the always-lovely ballet, “The Nutcracker.” But even that can be a little daunting for tiny ones once the Rat King comes out to fight the prince.
If you want a no-miss, completely joyful, fun for everyone Christmas theater option, stick with Buddy or Ralphie.