Santa's stage helper: New national Broadway tour of 'Elf the Musical' in Chicago

2013-11-28T00:00:00Z Santa's stage helper: New national Broadway tour of 'Elf the Musical' in ChicagoBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Actor Will Blum is ready to spend his Thanksgiving in Chicago, but not so ready for the cold.

Blum's smiling face and boundless energy helped earn him the title role for the new Broadway national tour of "Elf the Musical," the fun, silly story now set to songs about an extra-large elf in Santa's North Pole workshop who doesn't fit the yuletide expectations of his smaller, pointy-eared counterparts.

"It's going to feel like the North Pole in Chicago," Blum joked earlier this month during a telephone interview from Raleigh, North Carolina, where the new tour launched the week of Nov. 15.

"When I'm on stage, under the hot stage lights, even the elf tights get hot once you add the wig and hat to my costume. But walking around outside, is something entirely different."

Blum is spending his Thanksgiving morning waving from a float in downtown Chicago for the 2013 McDonald's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Broadway In Chicago in association with NETworks Presentations, LLC is presenting the Chicago engagement of "Elf the Musical," which opened Tuesday in Chicago and continues until Dec 15 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.

The casting, which was just announced last month, also features Larry Cahn as Walter, Lindsay Chambers as Jovie, Lanene Charters as Deb, Ken Clement as Santa, Larent Giroux as Mr. Greenway, Julia Louise Hosack as Emily, Noah Marlowe as Michael and Kevyn Morrow as the Store Manager along with more than a dozen others in supporting roles and ensemble.

Based on the beloved 2003 New Line Cinema hit film starring "Saturday Night Live" favorite Will Ferrell, "Elf the Musical" features songs by Tony Award nominees Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin of "The Wedding Singer," with a book by Tony Award winners Thomas Meehan of "Annie," "The Producers" and "Hairspray" and Bob Martin of "The Drowsy Chaperone." The production features direction by Sam Scalamoni and choreography by Connor Gallagher.

"I remember when I first saw the movie version, I thought to myself the story and subject lent itself to being a musical," Blum said.

"It's funny, with plenty for both kids and adults to laugh at, but there's also a message to the tale."

The two-hour holiday stage romp tells of Buddy, played by Blum, who is a young orphan child who mistakenly crawls into Santa's bag of gifts and is transported back to the North Pole. Unaware that he is actually human, Buddy's enormous size and poor toy-making abilities force him to face the truth. With Santa's permission, Buddy embarks on a journey to New York City to find his birth father, discover his true identity, and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Blum, who was an understudy for the role of Elder Cunningham on Broadway for "Book of Mormon," said he finds his "real life" constant smile and instant optimism, remain factors for his stage casting.

"My agent submitted my name for the 'Elf' auditions last spring and I wasn't sure I'd be what they were looking for," he said.

"The description for my character is this tall, more than 6-ft. guy and I'm only about 5'9" at the most."

Blum, who has lived in New York for six years, is originally from Nashville, and is excited that his mom is in Chicago to share Thanksgiving dinner with him for his one-day holiday break from performing.

"My smile and personality comes from my mom, who is a Methodist minister," said Blum, who was last in Chicago in January 2009 performing in the Broadway national tour of "Grease," which played the Auditorium Theatre starring "American Idol" Taylor Hicks in the Teen Angel featured role.

For "Elf the Musical," Blum said one of the first audiences the production play for as "a test run" was a group of elementary school students in Owensboro, Kentucky.

"The elementary school was a our tech performance after our month of rehearsals in October," Blum said.

"Chicago audiences are going to be a great way to welcome our big month of December run of performance dates."

Blum is especially proud about what he describes as "dazzling and creative sets to help tell the story."

"The sets are all beautifully hand-painted and are made to look like a giant pop-out book that unfolds right before the audience's eyes," he said.

"We've found a wonderful way to tell this story."

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