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Marriott Theatre fun run of 'Elf' is magical stage mirth and holiday mayhem

This is an easy theater review to write: actor Alex Goodrich was born to play Buddy the lead for the comedy musical "Elf."

Backed by an incredible cast and a dazzling set and whimsical costumes, Goodrich and team are proof that comedy combined with musical talent are the best paired gifts making this a must-have holiday ticket for audiences.

Ever since "Elf" first launched on Broadway in 2010, based on the hit 2003 film, I was skeptical about how it would translate for live theater. And then, I caught it when it arrived in Chicago in December 2013 for the first national Broadway tour and loved the results. Ever since, I've been waiting for a return encounter with Buddy the Elf.

Now, Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, Ill. has an "Elf" around until Dec. 31 and six-foot four Goodrich and guy in the green suit slugging down cocoa and maple syrup with the ideal crazed look and a grin that spans from ear to ear.

The stage treatment includes a favorite score by Tony Award nominees Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, and a book by Tony Award winners Thomas Meehan andBob Martin. It is 15-time Jeff Award-winner Marc Robindirecting and choreographing this new run with musical direction by Ryan T. Nelson. Robin has dreamed up some very clever chestnut additions for his imaginative production.

"Elf" is the funny and heartwarming story of Buddy, a young orphan child who becomes a would-be-elf who is eager to reunite with the family he never knew existed. After accidentally crawling into Santa's bag of gifts, Buddy is transported to the North Pole and raised by Santa's workshop of elves. When he embarks on a trek to New York City for a face-to-face reunion with his real father, not only does his life change forever, but also the lives of everyone whose path he crosses with his curled toed shoes.

The musical's score served up with snow and sparkle during the two-hour, one intermission, performance includes favorite songs like "Happy All the Time," "Sparklejollytwinklejingley" and "I'll Believe In You," all of which stay in audience's minds, amusing long after the final bow.

Actress Dara Cameron is delightfully droll as Buddy's department store co-worker Jovie, and also harbors a beautiful voice, which is only heard in song for the finale moments.

The rest of the cast includes Jeff Award winners Kevin Gudahl, perfectly gruff opposite Susie McMonagle as his edgy yet fun-loving wife Emily Hobbs, both terrific as the couple who welcome Buddy into their family, along with believable young actor Cam Ezell playing son Michael Hobbs. Stage favorites Roger Mueller as Santa and a transformed Susan Moniz as Mr. Hobbs' devoted secretary Deb, both have many shining and amusing moments in this story. James Earl Jones IIis a joy to watch in his role of a frazzled department store manager for Macy's.

The rest of the all-star talent cast includes Will Anderson, Julie Baird, Brian Bohr, Justin Brill,Neil Friedman, Katie Johannigman, George Keating, Patrick Lane, Johanna McKenzie-Miller, Gabriel Mudd, Zoe Nadal, Samantha Pauly, Liam Quealy, Isabelle Roberts, Collin Sanderson, Laura Savage and Emily Zimmerman.

The production set design by Tom Ryan mesmerizes and has the power to put audiences instantly into the Christmas spirit even before the first line of the show is uttered. The costume design by Nancy Missimi, lighting design by Jesse Klug, sound design by Bob Gilmartin, properties design by Sally Weiss, musical supervision and orchestra conducted by Patti Garwood are all gifts that keep on giving as each further scene of the show unfolds.