IT’S one of the most eagerly-awaited Christmas shows in years and the good news is that just like Santa when you’ve been good, Elf the Musical delivers.
It’s a magical, marvellous experience which will melt the coldest heart and leave you with the warmest of glows as you leave the theatre.
Based on the classic movie featuring Will Ferrell, it’s the story of Buddy who, as a baby crawled into Santa’s sack and was brought up as an elf in the North Pole.
But don’t think of it as just a stage version of the film. Elf the Musical is a glittering production in its own right.
At the heart of it all is Ben Forster as Buddy who turns in a tour de force as the candy loving, good hearted man-child who finds his father and love on the streets of New York.
He clearly revels in the role and strikes the prefect balance of silliness, vulnerability, childishness and naivety. And boy can he sing - no wonder he recently starred in Phantom of the Opera.
On stage for the majority of the show, he’s a bundle of energy in a green suit and his unconditional belief in the magic of Christmas will convert the biggest cynic.
Former Atomic Kitten Liz McClarnon is equally impressive, if a little under utilised, as Jovie, the cynical shopworker who falls for Buddy in a big way. Her American accent was spot on and surely more musical roles beckon.
Louis Emerick doubles as both Santa and hard-hearted publishing boss Mr Greenway and Joe McGann is Buddy’s dad Walter Hobbs who struggles with the news that he has a son. He isn't the strongest of singers but pulls off the gruff, no-nonsense businessman very effectively.
Elf the Musical is a big, big production. The sets are impressive with back projections bringing New York to life. You’ll be amazed as Santa’s sleigh takes flight and sit in wonder as snow falls upon the auditorium.
Everything about this show smacks of quality but this isn’t at the expense of the audience’s enjoyment.
There are little twists and small additions which will delight. The opening scene showing how Buddy has outgrown his fellow elves is fantastic and without giving too much away, just watch out for the tap dancing baby - it’s a work of genius.
For those familiar with the film some favourite moments are kept in the show - let's face it, the giant burp will always make youngsters giggle.
A lot was expected of Elf the Musical. Fear not, it’s the ultimate festive treat for the whole family.
Elf the Musical is at the Lowry, Salford Quays, until Sunday, January 14. Details from 0843 208 6000 or www.thelowry.com
Review copied without permission from the Lancashire Telegraph website. Reviewer: John Anson