It’s not very often a new classic Christmas story comes around, but when Elf hit theatres in 2003, the film gained a permanent spot on shelves everywhere.
And now, further cementing its status as a classic, is its musical incarnation being staged by Western Canada Theatre.
The play features 13 actors, four musicians and children’s chorus of 11. The eponymous elf is portrayed by Kirk Smith, a Western Canada Theatre veteran who has returned to lend his energy to Buddy.
“There’s something about the character that is endearing right away. The positivity and excitement for everything he sees and how much he likes Christmas — it’s infectious,” Smith said.
Smith, who is originally from Kamloops, said he’s not Will Ferrell — who portrayed Buddy the Elf in the original film — nor is he trying to be.
“It’s always tricky doing an iconic role people are familiar with, because you don’t want to leave them with nothing, but you also want to approach it the same way you would approach any other role and make it as real for you as possible,” he said.
Buddy is a high energy character — and Smith said he doesn’t know where that energy comes from, exclaiming to KTW it must be Christmas spirit.
But what he does know is that playing such a positive upbeat character is taking its toll — the opposite of some of his past experience with more suspenseful or serious productions.
“I’ve done a lot of shows where there’s anxiety throughout the whole show, where you’re trying to suppress a secret or there’s danger right around the corner, and you live for two hours a day in this sense of anxiety,” he said.
“Even though you know it’s pretend, you’re manifesting these things in your body, so you can’t help but take on some of that stress.”
But as Buddy, Smith said he finds himself projecting happiness all day long.
One of his fellow cast members he’s been projecting onto is Emily Whalen, a Kamloops local set to make her Western Canada Theatre debut.
“I get to literally step into a different pair of shoes for most scenes,” she said.
Whalen plays Charlotte Dennon, a TV news reporter, but much of her time on stage will be spent singing and dancing as an elf as part of the ensemble cast.
Whalen, who graduated from Beattie School of the Arts, studied theatre for two years at TRU and worked with Project X Theatre, said she has already learned a lot from being in the production and is growing in confidence.
“I couldn’t feel that way without having all these experienced people around me,” she said.
Whalen said it feels “magical” to be a part of a WCT production after watching so many of them and that she’s humbled to see how much work goes into a show.
“To finally be on the big stage is such an honour,” she said.
Elf – The Musical will run from Thursday, Nov. 29, to Dec. 12 at Sagebrush Theatre, 821 Munro St. Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 8 p.m. on Fridays and 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays. An opening night reception will be held Saturday, Dec. 1, following curtain call. Pay-what-you-can matinées are on Saturdays at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $39 and available at the Kamloops Live box office, 1025 Lorne St., 250-374-5483, or online at kamloopslive.ca.