Review: What the Elf (Second City)


What The Elf is an engaged, kid-friendly comedy for the holiday season in Toronto

The winter holidays are almost here, and if you’re looking for something to do with your young kids, you will probably enjoy What the Elf, being put on by The Second City in their Mainstage theatre (51 Mercer St).

As someone with a love for comedy who has always wanted to try performing in children’s theatre, What the Elf seemed like the perfect show for me to check out. I brought my 12 year old sister to this production (aimed at ages 4-12), figuring it’d be fine that she’s at the top of the age range, but was surprised to see that she was definitely the oldest kid there.

One of my earliest reviews was of the LOT’s production of Peter and the Starcatcher, which was also billed as a family friendly show. For What the Elf though, it was most definitely a kids show. Because of that, the only real criticism I can levy against What the Elf is that it should probably be billed as being for kids ages 4-10 rather than 12. That said, everyone bringing their kids to the theatre seemed to get this, and the average age of the children was probably around 6.

And I have to say that those kids were really engaged with this show. I was genuinely surprised by how attentive they all were. The little boy next to us had his eyes glued to the stage the entire time with a small smile on his face. There was lots of laughter to be had, and they all shouted out answers to questions in unison. With a runtime of just an hour, the show didn’t overstay its welcome.

My sister did tell me that she enjoyed the show, but we agreed that the humour didn’t really land for either of us. So for a family outing (and The Second City sells family ticket packages), feel free to bring your 12 year olds along but definitely leave the older kids at home.

There’s plenty of variety in this charming little show about Zelma (Rahkee Morzaria), a Christmas elf on a journey to deliver a present (Josh Murray) that was left behind by Santa (Paul Barnes). The kids got to throw out suggestions for an improv game, tell the performers what the hottest toy for Christmas is, and join in some sing-a-longs.

The actors were all really good at engaging the children. I was most impressed by PHATT al (the name given in the program!), who played a wayward reindeer. He was quite funny and the kids warmed up to him very quickly.

Showcasing the most mature set of theatrical skills was probably Paul Barnes. He played a host of roles, from Santa to a singing Ogre, and did the best job of getting laughs from the older crowd. That said, don’t think I’m passing any real judgment on the actors based on their performances here. The goal in a show like this is clearly to appeal to a younger demographic that doesn’t include me. And I really think it’s only a bit problematic that it didn’t win over my sister.

In my opinion, your kids are going to enjoy this show. I even saw one dad holding a baby, and it didn’t make a peep. I hope you’ll bring your young kids to What the Elf this holiday season, because I think they’ll enjoy it. Happy Holidays.


  • What the Elf is playing at The Second City Mainstage Theatre (51 Mercer St) until Jan 1, 2017.
  • Shows are at 2:00 PM every day form Dec. 26 – Jan 1st. With additional performances at varying times on some dates.
  • Tickets are $15 for Adults, $12 for Children, with family packs available.
  • You can buy the tickets online or at The Second City box-office.
  • Family friendly, aimed at children ages 4-12; runtime is 1 hour.

Image provided by the company