The Happy Elf: Sneak Peek Inside
An overly optimistic Christmas elf with a ridiculous amount of holiday spirit has just met his match.
“What’s a joke?” demands Molly, a disillusioned resident of Bluesville, a miserable city that just happens to be full of children on the naughty list.
Her gaze narrows as she zeros in on this impromptu elfin visitor, as though daring him to turn her grimace into a smile. She certainly isn’t kidding - and not just because she has no idea what kidding even means.
Eubie the elf has landed himself with
the seemingly impossible task
of spreading Christmas cheer to Bluesville.
It's a town full of people who never smile, don’t know how to tell a joke, spend their day manufacturing the world’s question marks, and never, ever celebrate anything – let alone the holidays. Can Eubie brighten their mood in time for Christmas?
Emma & Ryenn Bagnall & Owen Denson rehearse "The Happy Elf"
This is the plot behind Harry Connick Jr.’s The Happy Elf, presented by Dare to Dream Theatre Productions of Manitowoc. And as my son and I watch the rehearsal in delight, we witness not only the performances coming together, but the sparkling, local talent bringing the play to life.
“It’s not a typical, traditional holiday play that people may have seen before, “ says Rachel Thuermer, Dare to Dream Theatre Director, “and that’s what makes it all the more fun for families to come out and enjoy seeing it together for the first time.”
The theater troupe is made up of actors ranging in age from 3 to 45, with the median age for this production right around tween. They come from Howards Grove, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, and other cities in the Tri-County area. Some are new to Dare to Dream, and some are new to theater all together. Some have even just met for the first time during this play. Yet, you wouldn’t know it from the camaraderie on stage and off.
Inside jokes between the cast, friendly encouragement for lost lines, and spontaneous dance moves are all part of the rehearsal. But, don’t be fooled that the joviality translates into frivolity – these actors are firmly determined - and wholeheartedly excited - to put on a fabulous show.
Kaitlyn Smith plays Gilda & Elizabeth Thuermer, plays the role of Hamm.
Gilda, an elf played by Kaitlyn Smith, 10, takes the stage with candid confidence seen in seasoned – and, well, older performers. At 10, Kaitlyn plays the role of Eubie’s sidekick with a mix of ease and attitude. It’s hard to believe this is actually her first performance. Her eyes gleam as she talks about why she wanted to try out for the play. “I love that I get to be something and someone different.” And as for the show, she is captivated by the plot and, “how it’s about problem solving, and I love the idea of Bluesville. You usually don’t see a town at the bottom of a canyon.”
The town canyon is made up of coal that the townspeople mine and enjoy throwing at each other. Eubie strikes a deal, that if he can find another use for the coal, the Bluesville mayor will light a Christmas tree in the town square.
The townspeople may be more than a bit skeptical at Eubie's enthusiasm, but the actors are more than a little excited to be part of the performance. The haughty arrogance and sarcastic tone Ryenn Bagnall, 13, uses to play her Bluesville character, Molly, dissipates as she describes what brings her to theater. Her furrowed brow gives way to a soft smile as she talks about her role. “Molly is sassy and bratty - a fun role to play and a nice change from being me.” She also is taken in by the unique plot of the play. “Most Christmas shows are just about Christmas. This really get you into the holiday spirit, and the ending turns out so cute.”
Emma and Ryenn Bagnall star as less-than-impressed residents of Bluesville.
Elizabeth Thuermer, 10, who plays an elf named Hamm, seems to be bursting at the seams with enthusiasm for her role in the play. Not only to be in the play, but to be surrounded by people who actually are family ((her uncle and brother are both in the cast)) and those that feel like family. To her,“Plays aren’t just about the actors having fun – the more people that come and watch, the more people can have, too.”
And she’s right – it is fun to watch!
My son was mesmerized
to see a mix of grown-ups and kids on stage,
acting and singing with obvious glee.
Everett also loved having the chance to meet the characters off stage, as themselves, and was particularly taken with Eubie, the main elf himself.
Owen Denson, 12, plays the lead elf. The charm and wit he displays on stage carries over to his normal, everyday conversation, as though the effervescence of Eubie is just another facet of himself. In fact, he admits he loves the energetic, distracted, enthusiastic personality of the optimistic elf.
This is his first production with Dare to Dream, but for him, the show is about so much more than just celebrating Christmas, saying:
“The arts are kind of forgotten, and some people don’t understand what it means to have arts like this in our community. This is their chance to appreciate it, their chance to celebrate the theater!”
Cast of 'The Happy Elf" during rehearsal
Couldn’t have put it better myself. I can’t wait to see the live show with my family - complete with embellished costumes, vibrant stage sets and new holiday songs to bring in the Christmas spirit. You in?
Tickets are onsale at www.daretodreamtheatre.com.
Performances held on December 16 & 17 at 6:30 and December 17 & 18 at 1:00pm
at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan.
Enter our giveaway now for your chance to win a
family set of tickets to "The Happy Elf"