Theater

‘Elf’ keeps the Yule lingering

 
 
Matt Kopec (Buddy) and the cast of ‘Elf: The Musical’ take a bow.
Matt Kopec (Buddy) and the cast of ‘Elf: The Musical’ take a bow.
Joan Marcus

This year the Christmas shopping season was six days shorter than usual because of a late Thanksgiving. But the holiday is lasting longer, too, thanks to the New Year’s Eve arrival of Elf: The Musical at Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

“That is a little difference,” acknowledges Matt Kopec about Elf’s post-Christmas opening in Miami. The touring version has been on the road since November, “so we’ve been in Christmas mode for awhile,” he said from a recent stop in St. Louis.

Kopec, 27, plays Buddy, the boy who thinks he’s an elf when he winds up in Santa’s bag of gifts. Along the way, the boy/elf brings the meaning of Christmas to New York. The musical is based on the popular 2003 movie starring Will Ferrell.

“What’s nice about the musical is that it is about Christmas, but the main message is this family and believing, in general. Believing in Santa. But I think the larger message is the hope that comes from believing in something,” Kopec says of the show’s timeliness.

Fans of the movie, which has become a seasonal favorite, should tap into the spirit of Elf, as it borrows much of the Yuletide flavoring of the Ferrell hit. But the theater version adds songs and a book by Matthew Sklar, Chad Beguelin and Tony-winners Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin.

The movie, Kopec says, “brings people to the show. The movie is so quotable, and people have their favorite lines from the film, and we try to pack as many of those into the musical while still being its own entity. The core spirit of the film is there. People ask me if I’m like Will Ferrell. I’m not. Physically, I’m not. We certainly have different styles. But people will find the character there. There’s something that draws people into Buddy. He’s so innocent, and that’s something people like to see. We can live in such a cynical place all the time, and there’s something refreshing about how unfailingly positive he sees the world. Even in his deepest depths he’s always trying to find the positive situation.”

For the Dayton, Ohio-born Kopec, starring in a musical is a dream that began in front of a TV set in his parents’ home.

“I grew up on MGM musicals, and Danny Kaye, Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelly were my heroes. White Christmas is my favorite movie. I was obsessed with Danny Kaye as a kid. This musical has that old-school movie musical feel to it. The big dance numbers have a lot of that spirit. So I get to live out some of my childhood dreams playing this part.”

Elf: The Musical opens at 7 p.m. Tuesday through Jan. 5 at Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Tickets start at $26. Call 305-949-6722 or visit www.arshtcenter.org. (New Year’s Eve show will have a “snow drop” in the hall during intermission.) Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.

Howard Cohen

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