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Buddy’s trek from the North Pole brings him to the stage in Cambridge

Neil Aitchison is Santa in the Drayton Entertainment production of Elf: The Musical, now on stage at the Hamilton Family Theatre Cambridge. [Submitted]

They’ll be no rest for Santa after his big day December 25, as he’ll be on stage into the new year due to another extension of Drayton Entertainment’s Elf: The Musical, based on the hit 2003 comedy film. Seven performances of the production has been added to the schedule during the first week of January.

“We are thrilled that audiences are so excited to see the live stage version of ELF: The Musical,” says Alex Mustakas, artistic director of Drayton Entertainment. “We know that families are always looking for special things to do with loved ones over the holiday break. By extending the run, more people will be able to create lasting memories and enjoy this fun-filled production.”

The fish-out-of-water story follows Buddy (Tim Porter), an infant discovered at Santa’s (Neil Aitchison) workshop. He is raised to adulthood by the elves, believing that he himself is an elf, but his enormous human size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to stand out.

Once he overhears that he is in fact human, Buddy travels to New York City (with Santa’s blessing) to find his birth father and discover his real identity. To Buddy’s horror, he discovers that his father is on the naughty list, and his half brother doesn’t believe in Santa’s existence. He is determined to win over his new family and help them remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Former radio personality Aitchison (Santa) will open and close the show, as well as make five different appearances during the performance. He has taken on the role of Old Saint Nick in the past: he was the CTV Romper Room Santa for 14 seasons.

“It’s an easy role to return to, only now my hair is white instead of red. So I fit into the role even better,” said Aitchison with a laugh.

“I’m the real one! There are a bunch of fake department store Santas, like there is in the movie. We did school matinees on Wednesdays – it’s really something when the kids are down there with their teachers. I heard one little girl speak right out to her teacher and say ‘He’s the real one!’”

Aitchison said he did not look to the New Line Cinema film version to portray Santa Claus, as his version is more cheerful. Instead, he took direction from the show’s choreographer and director, Michael Lichtefeld. 

“[Lichtefeld] is brilliant; he has all the right little touches,” said Aitchison. “He said ‘I don’t want this to be a caricature of the movie; I want it to be a happy, feel-good stage production.’”

Katie Kerr will take on the role of Jovie, who plays an unenthusiastic worker at Gimbel’s and Buddy’s love interest, Brad Rudy is children’s book publisher and Buddy’s father Walter Hobbs, Robin Hutton is Buddy’s stepmother Emily Hobbs, and Thomas Winiker portrays Buddy’s younger half brother Michael Hobbs.

Annie Chen, Vanessa Cobham, Ryan Gifford, Ray Hogg, Gabrielle Jones, George Joyce, Anthony MacPherson, Luke Opdahl, Gregory Pember, Ainsley Allyssa Roy, Joel Taylor, Jennifer Thiessen and Margaret Thompson round out the cast.

“We’ve got an incredibly professional company of singers and dancers. We’ve got Stratford [Festival Theatre], Mirvish [Productions] and Broadway experience on that stage, and it shows,” said Aitchison. “The quality of the performers is really quite something.”

Audiences can expect plenty of well-known song and dance numbers, including “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” “Jingle Bells,” Santa Baby,” “Winter Wonderland,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

“We have a five-piece band, a group of incredible musicians and they play multi-instruments. It’s really quite a happy show,” said Aitchison. “When the snow falls, everybody’s happy, and Christmas has been saved. It’s really a nice moment.”

Elf: The Musical performances started in late November and will run until January 5 at the Hamilton Family Theatre Cambridge.

“People are flocking to it. The day they extended the second time, I think they sold somewhere around 600 tickets,” said Aitchison. “It’s tremendous to see that they sold so well, and that helps the bottom line at the end of the year for Drayton Entertainment. And the actors are thrilled because they’re getting two extra weeks work – they’d normally be off not doing anything.”

Tickets are $48 for adults, $29 for youth under 20 years of age, available at the theatre, online, or by calling the box office at (519) 621-8000 or toll-free at 1-855-drayton (372-9866).


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