DE PERE, Wis. (WFRV) – The magic of “Elf,” the movie, thrives in Birder Players’ production of “Elf: The Musical,” sparked by theater’s illusion of reality with real people performing the roles.

Buddy the Elf’s endless optimism – oh so child-like – is eagerly and completely portrayed by Frankie Breit, a newcomer to Birder Players but not to performing.

The show’s Santa Claus is a bit of a wise guy with a heart and a way of telling a tale. Mark A. Jackson excels in the part.

Buddy’s girlfriend, Jovie, is filled with New York City’s tired/worldly wisdom down to its last ray of hope. Megan Navarrette scintillates (sparkles) in the role.

Buddy’s father, Walter Hobbs – surprised to be father of an elf (who wouldn’t be?) – is a snarly work hound in dogged pursuit of the dollar over family. Keith Pratt takes a big, convincing bite out of that meaty meany role.

As is Birder Players’ way, showy dance numbers erupt along the way with energy and costuming flair and song vitality practically in the audience’s lap in the cozy theater.

Director Alicia Birder, music director Amy Bucheger (new to the role) and choreographer Anna Allen tap into the experienced players’ skills and set them free. Performances in Broadway Theater – the one in De Pere, Wisconsin – are quite infectious.

Practically everybody in the cast doubles and triples in roles, with much unfolding efficiently. This team is well rehearsed.

Visual elements are clever. Included is a backdrop of an outline of the New York City skyline with elements that turn for entrances and exits. In a scene in a Chinese restaurant, four screens are beautifully rendered with classic images.

Susan Elliott is scenic artist. Her husband, Warren Elliott, is the set designer and, on stage, the grouchy publisher, Mr. Greenway, among other roles.

Also in solid form are Ana Bakken as Mr. Hobbs’ New York flinty secretary, Michelle Oren as the clever and caring Mrs. Hobbs, young Charlie Popkey as 12-year-old Michael Hobbs and Ann Preiss Gray as the no-nonsense Macy’s manager.

Early on, this is Buddy’s show in focus – him/Frankie Breit being so dynamically innocent. Eventually, it’s everybody’s on stage working in unity.

Hmmm. The story is so unlikely. Santa Claus finds an infant in his toy bag and raises the tiny orphan at the North Pole to believe he’s one of his elves. By chance, the grown orphan learns he’s human. Then the unlikely turns. DNA becomes involved in a truth.

A secret to the success of “Elf” still is Santa. The creators imagine a fantasy when New Yorkers save the day for the big guy and his aura – with a big, colorful, joyful Birder Players production number spiced with tap dancing. Hoo-rah!


Running time: Two hours, 35 minutes

Remaining performances (check availability): 4 p.m. Dec. 4; 7 p.m. Dec. 7; 12 and 4 p.m. Dec. 11; 7 p.m. Dec. 13, 14, 15, 16; and 2 p.m. Dec. 17


Creative: Based on the movie “Elf”: Book – Bob Martin, Thomas Meehan; music – Matthew Sklar; lyrics – Chad Beguelin; producer/director – Alicia Birder; music director – Amy Bucheger; choreographer – Anna Allen; lighting design – Andrew Schmitz; sound design – Chloe Ledvina-Cleary; sound engineer – Sam Sedenquist; stage manager – Frank Tower; production manager, properties – Jensen Mackenzie; set design – Warren Elliott; scenic design – Susan Elliott; hair/make-up design – Lois Gregare; wardrobe coordinators/designers – Janet Ajango, Ann Preiss Gray, Sam McKenzie, Ruth Novak, Judy Patefield, Heather Powell, Lynn Thompson; set build – Susan Elliott, Warren Elliott, Jim Sanders, Warren Schultz


Santa – Mark A. Jackson

Buddy – Frankie Breit

Deb – Ana Bakken

Matthews – Lucas Brunette

Charlie the Elf – Luke Crocker

Tiera the Elf – Megan Navarrette

Mr. Greenway – Warren Elliott

Macy’s Manager – Ann Preiss Gray

Mrs. Claus – Beth Remmers-Jensen

Chadwick – Gus Kroenke

Jovie – Megan Navarrette

Emily – Michelle Oren

Michael – Charlie Popkey

Mr. Walter Hobbs – Keith Pratt

Charlotte – Skye La Rock Hill

Ensemble – Ana Bakken, Lucas Brunette, Megan Carpenter, Luke Crocker, Warren Elliott, Ann Preiss Gray, Jolee Jackson, Beth Remmers-Jensen, Gus Kroenke, Ritter Leeph, Lindsey Lyerly, Megan Navarrette, Michelle Oren, Keith Pratt, Elizabeth Werner, Skye La Rock Hill, Jackie Cummings, Lilly Ellingson, Noah Jackson, Caitlin Melberg, Rachel Powell, Lauren Powell, Eloise Van Handel


Musical numbers (recorded soundtrack)

Act I

Overture – Orchestra

“Happy All the Time” – Santa, Elves, Buddy

“Not Happy All the Time” – Buddy

“World’s Greatest Dad” — Buddy

“In the Way” – Deb, Walter, Emily, Michael, Employees, Buddy

“Sparklejollytwinklejingley” –  Store Manager, Buddy, Jovie, Store Elves

“I’ll Believe in You” – Michael and Emily

“In the Way” (Reprise) – Emily, Walter

“Just Like Him” – Buddy, Walter, Deb, Employees

“A Christmas Song” – Buddy, Jovie, Company

“World’s Greatest Dad” (Reprise) – Buddy and Company

Act II

Entr’acte – Orchestra

“Nobody Cares About Santa” – Fake Santas, Buddy, Store Manager

“Never Fall in Love (With an Elf)” – Jovie

“There Is a Santa Claus” – Michael, Emily

“The Story of Buddy” – Company

“Nobody Cares About Santa” (Reprise) – Santa

“A Christmas Song” (Reprise) – Buddy, Jovie, Emily, Michael, Walter, Company

Finale – Company


NEXT: “Christmas Cabaret,” Dec. 21.

THE VENUE: Broadway Theatre is located at 123 St. Broadway on the east side of the Fox River in De Pere. Essentially a 3,000-square-foot “black box” theater, the rectangular performance space is adjusted to the needs of a specific production. The space includes a high, arcing ceiling consisting primarily of its original patterned tin, painted white, and a laminate dark brown floor in the audience area. Performances spill along the various levels onto the main level of the seating area. Action often is up close and personal. The theater is the home for performances and rehearsals of the youth Birder Studio of Performing Arts and adult Birder Players, and it is another option for other endeavors of entertainment.