Elf is back on Broadway and this time it is the dumb and dumber version. The 2010 mounting had charm, with Sebastian Arcelus bringing a loveable innocence and gawky wit to the role. Now Elf has turned chubby and less endearing with a star turn by Jordan Gelber from Ave Q.
The show is based on the 2003 film starring Will Ferrell as Buddy, the human who thinks he’s an elf until he learns differently. When Santa sends him to New York to find his father, he finds love and acceptance.
Though the love story makes no sense, especially with Gelber playing the role, Leslie Kritzer, who plays Jovie, brings warmth and a quirkiness that makes her performance the best reason to see Elf . Vocally, she brings the house down.
For “Seinfeld” fans, Wayne Knight (Newman) plays Santa and is much more credible than George Wendt of “Cheers” fame, who was in the 2010 version.
Repeating their roles, Mark Jacoby, steadily phones in the role of the father (Walter) and Beth Leavel, as the stepmother, does the best she can with the non-existent material she’s been given.
Mitchell Sink plays Buddy’s stepbrother and shines in “Buddy the Elf.”
Thomas Meehan (Annie) and Bob Martin’s book is week as is Casey Nicholaw’s direction. The music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Chad Beguelin is best served by Doug Besterman’s orchestrations.
Writing reviews like this makes me feel like Scrooge, and yes, I teared when the snow came down, but I need substance, or at least pure entertainment when I see a show. Elf makes me feel like the number “Nobody Cares About Santa.”
Elf : Al Hirschfeld Theater, 302 West 45th St. Until Jan. 6th.