“Elf” sings in the Pioneer Theater Company directed by Alan Muraoka • Salt Lake Magazine
For many 2000s kids (and many of their parents), the image of Will Ferrell happily terrorizing a Macy’s belongs to the Christmas movie canon with the A Christmas story leg lamp and pathetic tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Now the modern Christmas classic is getting the full Broadway treatment in a musical production at the Pioneer Theater Company starting this Friday.
Based on the 2003 film, Elf follows Buddy the elf, who at 6’2 ” sticks out like a sore thumb among the elves in Santa’s workshop. As an adult, Buddy the Elf learns that he is not an Elf at all, he is a human who was adopted after sneaking into Santa’s bag as a baby. Heartbroken, Buddy leaves the North Pole and travels to New York City to connect with his real father. Away from Santa’s workshop, Buddy’s irresistible love for Christmas and his childish personality confuses, annoys and ends up winning over the cynical New Yorkers he meets.
For people of my generation – young enough to still believe in Santa when the movie hit theaters –Elf is a permanent Christmas staple. (The film is tattooed into my brain from countless viewings the day before the winter break in elementary school. It always seems more appropriate to me to watch it on an awkward rolled up TV in a carpeted classroom. .) Almost two decades later, the film’s mix of self-aware humor and warm, fuzzy Christmas cheer still works – the endless dialogue and serious performances make the holiday movie clichÃ©s drop like crazy. candy (and candy canes, candy corn and syrup). This musical adaptation, premiered in 2010, captures the film’s nostalgia and adds an energetic Broadway pop score.
ElfPTC’s beginnings date back to 2013, when it became the most popular holiday production in the company’s history. In this new production, Buddy is played by Max Chernin, who was last seen on PTC in Shining star, with actors Antoinette Comer, Christopher Gurr, Mary Fanning Driggs and Jason Simon in the other lead roles. Elf director Alan Muraoka has a lot of family entertainment experience. Along with a decades-long career as a stage actor and director, Muraoka is best known for his role as Alan in Sesame Street. (The character was introduced in 1998 as the owner of Hooper’s Store, and Muraoka has been a cast member ever since.) This year, he co-directed an episode of the series, âFamily Day,â which featured a family with two homosexuals. dads.
Salt lake talked with Muraoka about Elf, Sesame Street and his career in television and theater.
Salt Lake: what can the public expect Elf?
Just in time for the holiday season, this show features fun and memorable songs, wonderful humor, energetic dances, and a beautiful, heart-filled story. The idea of ââBuddy the Elf in search of his family and a home and, along the way, the kindness and joy that touches everyone he meets is the biggest message to share. during this period. It’s the perfect show to share with family and friends, and I’m so happy everyone is coming back to the theater to join in the fun.
SL: Tell us about your experiences working with these actors and this team at Pioneer Theater Company.
This is my first time working with Pioneer Theater Company, and I am very grateful for this opportunity. Everyone on the creative staff is so welcoming and collaborative, and I appreciate it.
Our cast is made up of a combination of great local talent and New York actors, and I’m always amazed at how quickly strangers in theater can bond and become family. I have personal experience with several of the actors and creative staff. Our Music Director, Tom Griffin, hired me as an actor for my first professional job in Los Angeles in 1983. Choreographer Rommy Sandhu and I have known each other for years but have never worked together until now. One of the actors, Howard Kaye, and I did the original Broadway production of Miss Saigon in the mid-90s, and another actor, Danielle Decrette and I toured Lincoln Center’s Anything Goes nationwide in 1989 and little soon after she gave up playing to raise three beautiful girls. It is his return to the scene after many years.
SL: You have spent more than two decades Sesame Street, but you have also worked a lot in the theater. What excites you about working in live theater?
I love both theater and television for different reasons, but the most wonderful and unique thing about theater is that it is live. Anything can happen in the live theater, and therefore each performance is slightly different. I also love how the audience plays a huge role in this. Actors feed off the energy of an audience, and the audience is therefore an essential part of the overall theater experience.
SL: You worked both behind and in front of the camera on an iconic show for children and families. What did you learn about Sesame Street about performance for that specific audience? How did you apply this experience to Elf, another child-friendly production?
Sesame Street Has taught me so much, but the biggest thing it taught me is how smart and intuitive kids are, and so you should always be honest with them. I always approach every show finding the truth and honesty in the material. What are the essential heart moments? Where and how does humor originate? You always start there, then find the style for each production and work your way up and up from there. Elf lives in a very fast paced style, almost a sitcom, but he also has a huge heart. It is therefore about finding the balance and the energy necessary for the two elements to shine.
SL: You recently co-directed âFamily Dayâ, an episode of Sesame Street featuring a gay couple. What did it mean to you to share this story about a queer family?
It is very important to me that everyone feels represented on Sesame Street, because we strive to be a world of inclusion, diversity, kindness and love. I was very proud to be part of this episode which shows that there are many kinds of families and that each of them must be understood and accepted.
SL: You’ve now been on Sesame Street for over 23 years. When you were first cast, did you expect to star on the show for that long? What interests you to come back each season?
My first season of Sesame Street dates back to 1998, and we were celebrating our 30th birthday on the air. In my head as an actor coming from the theater, the duration of a show ranges from a few months to a few years. So, in my head, I thought, “If I get to five years in the series, it’s going to be a good race.” So now that I’ve been at Sesame for 23 years, it’s both amazing and surreal. What makes Sesame Street so unique and special is that since we’ve been producing new shows for 52 years, we’ve been able to address the current issues affecting children here in the United States and around the world. This past year and a half is a perfect example. During the pandemic, we realized that children and families had so many questions, so we partnered with CNN to host city hall specials on COVID where children and parents could submit questions, and a panel of experts (doctors, scientists and educators), as well as our beloved Muppets, have helped provide answers and support. We have also created specials in response to the need for the Black Lives Matter movement (The Power of We, Emmy winner) and in response to the increase in racial incidents against Asian Americans (See Us Coming Together, which will air on Thanksgiving Day on HBO Max, PBS, and YouTube). I am extremely proud to be a part of a show that educates, entertains and teaches children around the world how to be smarter, stronger and kinder.
SL: You recently did another Utah production: the world premiere of Mountain of gold with the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Tell us about this production and your experience with it.
Mountain of gold was special to me because it was the culmination of seven years of collaboration between composer and playwright Jason Ma and myself. We both felt the show was a testament to the history of those Chinese railroad workers who helped build the transcontinental railroad, literally helped create the United States of America, and then were erased from the history books. . It was a labor of love, and I was so happy with the production, the cast, the designers, and the welcome from the SLC community was so warm and welcoming. We hope it has a bright future and are grateful that it started as these two trains met in 1869.
SL: Had you been to Utah before directing these two productions? How did you like being here?
I have spent time in Cedar City and SLC, and I have to tell you that there are times when I look at mountain ranges with the sun hitting them in the morning and at sunset, and it cuts me off the breath. I was last at SLC and Ogden in 2019 when we celebrated Spike 150 with a concert version of Gold Mountain, and I was charmed by the city, the people and the food. One of my favorite dishes available here in town is a pastry called Kouign-amann, which is basically a croissant rolled in sugar, so it’s both caramelized and buttered. My personal favorites are from Eva’s and Les Madeleines, and I’ve introduced all of our New York actors and designers to these little corners of heaven. I gave a bunch of them to the cast and crew at Gold Mountain for opening night, and they absolutely loved them.
SL: Tell us anything you would like readers to know about this musical.
For many of our cast, this is their first live show since the pandemic shut down cinemas across the country, and so there is a sense of urgency in wanting to appear in front of a live audience again. . Then we are SLC ready for you. Hope you are ready for us.
Elf will be performed at Pioneer Theater Company from December 3-18. For tickets and more information visit their website. Read all of our theater coverage.