Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Review of Elves and the Shoemaker

Old Creamery - Sometimes elves are scary. Even if they are wonderfully played by two energetic and sweet performers, sometimes to a four-year-old elves are scary. Such was the unfortunate case when I brought my daughter to see The Elves and the Shoemaker presented by Old Creamery Theatre for Young Audiences over the weekend. I have to mention right away that my child was the exception, not the rule. The overwhelming majority of children there enjoyed the Elves, the Shoemaker, and loved watching the evil but misunderstood Gertie Gorfaddle get her comeuppance at the end.

All four actors were excellent. Tom Milligan as the Shoemaker showed us a friendly and warm grandfather with just enough kid in him that every child in the audience was immediately entranced. Nicholas Hodge and Jackie McCall as Morel and Mimsey the elves were silly, funny and delightful. Emily Bodkin's portrayal of Gertie Gorfaddle reminded me of a combination between the Beverly Hillbillies' Mrs. Dryesdale and Cruella deVille. She stole the show every time she brought her wickedly funny self on stage. And even offstage she dominated with the running joke pratfall due to icy conditions.

The set was well done and immediately recognizable to my daughter as a shoemaker's shop. One of the best features was the puppet theatre that was center stage. This was used for many laughs such as the green puppet snake who liked to bite Gertie's nose and hold on tight.

Also well executed were the special effects. A flash of magic here and a falling box there added to the fun for the kids. As any good kids show should, audience interaction was key to the plot. Twice we had to join hands to create a chain of power to make magic and help the Elves and the Shoemaker. Apparently this chain of power works even when one four-year-old girl refuses to participate despite her dad's best efforts.

The message of the show for the kids was clear: good triumphs over evil, money is not important, and by working together we can make the world a better place. But there was a message sent to the adults in the audience as well. As Morel says to the Shoemaker, "All we elves can do is help you remember a few things you might have forgotten." I certainly remembered how fun it can be play pretend and weave some magic spells.

This is the third and final installment of Old Creamery's children series this year. They've been very successful and we can expect to see them next year as well. As a parent, I think it's commendable that an area theatre is providing shows by adults for children at a reasonable cost. And clearly from the packed audience, I am not the only one who feels this way. So if you have kids, I highly recommend The Elves and the Shoemaker. Just be sure to explain to your child ahead of time that Elves are nice even when they sneak into someone's house through the chimney.

--Matthew Falduto

Matthew has a Bachelor's degree in English from the University of Iowa. He has directed, acted in, and produced theater in the Iowa City area for over ten years. He has worked with the Iowa City Community Theatre, City Circle and Dreamwell, of which he is a founder. Two of his plays have been produced in the Iowa City area. In another brief life, he also worked as a technical writer.

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