Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Anything Goes
The story, based on the popular 2003 movie that starred Will Ferrell, begins with Santa (Kevin McAllister, unrecognizable under body padding and a gray wig and beard) at home at the North Pole, wearing a red track suit and sitting in his easy chair. As an intermittent narrator, Santa tells how the orphaned infant Buddy (affable David Schlumpf) crawled into his toy bag one Christmas Eve, grew up among the elves despite growing much taller and developing a deeper voice, and now must learn to live in human society. With only the name of his father and a snow globe of New York City to guide him, Buddy heads out.
Buddy's unsuspecting father, Walter Hobbs (Bobby Smith), is a workaholic executive in a children's book publishing firm, ignoring his frazzled wife Emily (Janine Sunday) and neglecting his young son Michael (Tyler Smallwood or Eli Lander). Buddy knows that all they need is a good dose of the Christmas spirit, which he's determined to give them, whether they want it or not. He also stumbles into a job at Macy's Christmas shop, where he strives to melt the cynicism of co-worker Jovie (Patricia Hurley). The result of Buddy's efforts is never in doubt.
Director Michael J. Bobbitt does his best with material that in essence resembles Buddy's all-sugar diet (with maple syrup on top). Tara Jeanne Vallee's lively choreography includes a bluesy number for a group of "fake Santas" sharing drinks and Chinese food on Christmas Eve.
On the other hand, the physical production is beautiful. Daniel Ettinger's scenic design includes a curving proscenium arch trimmed with lights, with projections of enormous snowflakes (designed by Sarah Tundermann) appearing at various points on the rear scrim. Max Doolittle's lighting design encompasses both the fantasy of Santa's workshop and the everyday of New York homes and offices. Costume designer Kendra Rai seems to have been working within specific color palettes: the employees of Walter's firm all wear black and shades of plum, while in the finale everyone in the cast is wearing pale blue shoes.
Olney Theatre Center