Cameron Ramich as Buddy and Jeremy Barnard as Santa in a scene from “Elf – the Musical” Photo courtesy of Lyric Music Theater

Size doesn’t matter much in the world of elves. It’s personal growth that makes all the difference, according to the highly entertaining production of “Elf – The Musical” now running at the Lyric Music Theater in South Portland.

An inspired cast of local theater players under the direction of Joshua Chard have brought this cheerful little treat of a show to their historic theater at just the right time for all ages to enjoy.

“Elf” tells the story, familiar from the popular, non-musical film starring Will Ferrell, of an orphan who grows up among a crew of diminutive, holiday-centric workers at the North Pole. Those little folks welcome the full-size human Buddy as one of their own and even, in a delightfully exuberant opening number, sing about being “Happy All the Time.”

When Santa feels it’s time for the now 30-year-old Buddy to meet his father, the innocent, trusting, honorary elf is sent off to New York City where he encounters a stressful world in which his father has little time for his wife and their young son, let alone to welcome a surprise new addition (in full elf attire) to the family. Complications, including a rocky romance for Buddy, inevitably ensue. It would not be giving away too much, though, to say that things turn out fine by the close of this roughly two-hour show.

Cameron Ramich, a USM senior, is a perfect Buddy, naive to the ways of the human world but still able to charm it into submission with a loving logic and disarming hugs. His vocals on, for example, “World’s Greatest Dad” and “Just Like Him” were forthright and styled to fit the alternately sentimental and silly elements within the songs. His well-timed comic interjections furthered his role as a lovable man/child with perhaps not as much growing to do as simple wisdom to impart.

Lindsey Miller plays love interest Jovie, a tough nut who cracks under Buddy’s sincere attention. Her strongest vocal came on the reflective “Never Fall in Love,” backed by the swelling strains of a five-piece “orchestra” (directed by Bob Gauthier) in an alcove to the side of the stage.

David Heath, Rachel Lotstein and a boy with a big voice, Aidan Walton, play Buddy’s New York family, adding much of the show’s drama as they solve some old problems in adjusting to their new family member.

The large cast gets to roller-skate and dance (choreography by Jamie Lupien Swenson) with Briana Chu a standout in the latter. And the elves, moving about on their knees to simulate a smaller stature, provide laugh-inducing ingredients to a show that captivates and holds on with smooth set changes (design by Steve Lupien), colorful costuming (Cindy Kerr), and well-handled lighting (Bruce Gray) and sound (Scott Whiting).

Even if you take this spirited show only half seriously, you’ll probably never look at elves (and look at them you must) the same way again.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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