Elf, the perennial favorite based on the charming tale of Buddy, a young orphan who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported to the North Pole, brightens the holiday season at the Walnut Street Theatre through Jan. 5.
Adapted from the film and a hit Broadway musical, the Walnut Street’s production features Christopher Sutton as Buddy, who, based on his enormous size and poor toy-making abilities, must finally face the fact that he is not an elf but a human being.
The show is based on the 2003 New Line Cinema film of the same name, starring Will Ferrell, and written by David Berenbaum, who grew up in the Northeast and is a graduate of George Washington High School.
And how did someone who grew up celebrating Chanukah go on to write a smash hit screenplay about Christmas?
Berenbaum says, “I’ve always loved Christmas and Christmas movies and Christmastime. It’s a great time of the year to tell stories. There’s just something magical about that time of the year.”
In the WST production, the holiday spirit is there but the show stands on its own merit.
“We’re not trying to imitate anybody. You know, you can only be second rate to somebody else but first rate if you are true to yourself,“ Sutton said.
“We just want to keep the integrity of the film and the Broadway show alive,” Sutton said. “This is a sweet, wonderful, infectious show in the true Christmas spirit. We just want to keep that feeling alive.”
Acting has been alive in Sutton’s heart since he was a little boy.
“I was about 8 years old and in the third grade. One day, my friend Jeff and I were set to do a clown routine in a Boy Scouts show until Jeff got sick and went home. That meant I had to go on alone. And I did,” Sutton said. “I did a lot of improv and came up with some pretty cool things. I loved every minute of it, and I think my dad still has a 35mm film of it.”
The oldest of seven, Sutton said he also loved to read. “And when I discovered and read Shakespeare as a kid, it made me sure I wanted to become an actor.”
With his appetite whet for the theater, Sutton said his career path was sealed. A three-time Barrymore award nominee for Blood Brothers and Singin’ in the Rain, Sutton won the award for The Buddy Holly Story in 1999, and returned last year to the Walnut to recreate his portrayal.
As part of his role of Don in Singin’ in the Rain at the Walnut, Sutton had to tap dance, and he’ll be putting those newly-learned skills to good use again in Elf.
Sutton and his wife, actress Lyn Philistine, live in Astoria, N.Y. Their 10-week-old baby boy, Dylan, will appear with his father in this production.
“In the show, Buddy eventually returns to his birthplace of New York City in search of his biological father. And at the end of the show, Buddy has his own little Buddy — this time played by my little Dylan.”
For times and tickets, call 215-574-3550. ••