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“Sparklejollytwinklejingley” is the spirit for Buddy’s journey to find his real family. This musical fable will put a much needed smile on your family's Holiday season.

Review by Vince Mediaa

Hillbarn Theatre & Conservatory celebrates the Holiday season with ELF The Musical. Buddy the Elf visits the Hillbarn through Dec 18th. Based on one of the beloved holiday films ELF the Musical, transforms the story of Buddy the Elf into a holiday musical featuring songs by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, with a book by Tony winners, Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone). The cast is excited to be the first to bring this new Santa classic to a Bay Area stage.

Randy O’Hara, Artistic Director of Hillbarn, wants to make this new musical a Holiday tradition. O’Hara said “While creating our version of this story/ Buddy the Elf discovers NY City there is a simple perspective he brings to a world of chaos and bitterness. Buddy spreads some cheer year round and believes in the unbelievable.” Based on the blockbuster movie, ELF tells the story of Buddy, played by local favorite Dave J Abrams who as ELF was raised among Santa's helpers at the North Pole. Buddy is actually a human who crawled into Santa's gift bag as a baby and stowed away on the sleigh one Christmas Eve. With hope in his heart, Buddy sets off to find his human family in New York City and restore the Christmas Spirit for his dad, brother, and step mom.

Directed by O’Hara, this fun romp stays true to the level of quality entertainment the Hillbarn is known for, with a cast that brings joy from the stage into every heart. The terrific Lindsay Schulz as the office busybody, Deb, and the rousing Nadiyah Hollis as the Macy's Manager are equally memorable and hysterical in their roles. Hollis sings “Sparkejollytwinklejingley” with Abrams and the cast and is one of the first act show stoppers.

“When a room is gloomy and it’s atmosphere has called it quits

You gotta remember that December is the time for glitz

Never stop til’ ev’ry limb on your Christmas tree

is Sparklejollytwinklejingley”

The commanding Brandon Savage as Walter Hobbs is dry in all the right ways as the disassociated father with too much on his corporate work plate. He is convincing as the father who could afford to spend more time with his family, especially so close to the holidays. Savage sings “In The Way” with the cast and Schulz and shows off his tuneful voice. As the young son, Michael Hobbs, the delightful Josh Parcki is a budding young performer with a nice tone to his voice and sings “I’ll Believe in You” with the powerhouse Jessica Coker who plays his mom Mrs Hobbs.

Santa, played by the ideal Russ Bohard, is a jolly storyteller and inspiration to encourage Buddy to meet his real dad and family. Next to Santa is Lisa Appleyard as Mrs. Claus who both open the show with the cast song “Happy All The Time” that also features Abrams. The ensemble cast gives their all, performing and makes the most of this heartfelt Christmas tale. Abrams is excellent as Buddy and his many solo’s include “The Worlds Greatest Dad’, “Not Happy All The time”, and “Nobody Cares About Santa”. His voice and dance is energized with flips and flawless choreography by Jeanne Batacan-Harper. Music director Joe Murphy and his 13 piece back stage orchestra bring this large 23 member cast some amazing Holiday cheer.

Abrams as Buddy is full of Christmas cheer, he's energetic and happy, but also moody at times. He is a consistently strong performer and always gives his all in every role I have seen him perform. As the love interest of Buddy, Jovie, Allison J Parker provides a warm charm with hints of something more. It turns out the "more" is a strong vocal in Act two as she sings “Never Fall In Love”, Parker shows off her marvelous voice and talent as she warns never fall in love with an Elf.

Artfully directed by O’Hara he utilizes the entire Hillbarn space including holiday lights lining the aisles as the cast enters. The choreography by Batacan-Harper utilizes the full stage and demands high energy from the players. They pull off these complex routines and make the work look easy as Adrams flies and flips through his performance. A challenging and skilled scene occurs when Jovie and Buddy go ice skating on roller blades that becomes a smooth number.

The smart set design by Matt Owen proves that big musicals always look professional on the Hillbarn Stage. Pam Lampkin Costume Design is very bright for all the santa helpers, yet toned down for the family and office staff. Pam Grey Lighting Design covers the entire Hillbarn space and is bright and full of energy. Ron Ho created the projections that bring NY City alive and that classic vintage to Santa’s workshop. Props by Rosie Issel include plenty of candy canes, stuffed toys, and office class for the Mr Hobbs NY office.

The holidays always come with baggage, family gatherings can quickly devolve into mayhem among the twinkling lights and pile of gifts. The Hillbarn Theatre current holiday production of Elf provides its own sense of love and pandemonium. This family friendly musical emphasizes love, friendship, and the lovely spirit of the season. It will definitely put you and your family in a “Sparklejollytwinklejingley” mood! Be sure to bring your own Santa Hat and a candy cane for Buddy.

Hillbarn Theatre and Conservatory - Presents


Music by Matthew Sklar, Lyrics by Chad Beguelin,

Book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin

Directed by Randy O'Hara

Assistant Director Brigette Losey

Music Director Joe Murphy

Choreographer Jeanne Batacan-Harper

Must close December 18th

The Hillbarn Theatre

1285 East Hillsdale Blvd. Calif 94404

Two Hours with one intermission

Tickets and more info

Photos by Mark and Tracy Photography

Elf the Musical features Dave J. Abrams* as Buddy. Abrams, last seen in HIllbarn's spring production of Ain't Misbehavin' takes the stage with: Trixie Aballa,(Tiara/Ensemble/u/s Bev), Lisa Appleyard (Mrs. Claus/Ensemble), Samantha Arden, (Matthews/Ensemble), Russ Bohard (Santa/Ensemble), Alyson Chilton (Ensemble), Jessica Coker (Emily), Kara Clapp Connelly (Ensemble), Doug Greer(Ensemble), Esteban Gonzalez (Ensemble), Angela Harrington (Ensemble/ u/s Emily), Nadiyah Hollis (Manager/Greenway), Nick Kenrick (Chadwick/Ensemble), Kyle LaPlana (Ensemble/u/s Buddy) Sophie Lee (ensemble), Josh Parecki (Michael), Allison J. Parker* (Jovi), Brandon Savage (Walter), Lindsay Schulz (Bev), Ilana Segal (Ensemble), Joe Steely, (Charlie/Ensemble/u/s Matthews), Gwen Tessman, (Ensemble), Rhys Townsager (Ensemble/ u/s Michael ).

The creative team features Matt Owen (Set Design), Pam Lampkin (Costume Design), Pam Grey (Lighting Design), (Sound Design), Ron Ho (Projections) and Rosie Issel (Prop Design).


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