Review: What the Elf?! (The Second City)

Picture of Kyah Grace, Rabiya Mansoor, Bianca Alongi, Wilfred Lee, Connie Manfredi, and Rob Lewin in What the Elf?!Second City presents family friendly musical comedy for the holidays

The Second City presents What the Elf?! a family-friendly musical comedy show that reminds us it’s never too late to pursue our dreams. This production of What the Elf?! is based on a 2015 script (written by Leslie Seiler), re-worked and directed by Nigel Downer in collaboration with the ensemble cast. While revolving around the journey of Santa’s elves and reindeer, this show provides some life lessons for humans of all ages. 

What the Elf?! takes place on the night of Christmas Eve. Zelma (Bianca Alongi), an inventive and ambitious elf, neglects to load one last gift (Rabiya Mansoor) onto Santa’s (Wilfred Lee) sleigh before he sets off for his delivery. Not wanting to incur the disapproval of head elf Sherman (Kyah Green), she teams up with her reindeer best friend Sauci (Connie Manfredi) for an adventure-filled rendezvous with Santa. Along the way, they encounter scheming bunnies and rapping ogres as well as many reminders that they can do anything if they believe in themselves and accept the help of others. 

This show is very kid friendly, with lots of funny moments and life lessons for adults too. I don’t know any kids that I may have taken with me, but I could tell the show is lots of fun for the kids in the audience. The jokes are accessible without being pandering or condescending, and there are many moments of engaging audience participation. 

This show features a tight knit ensemble, with most of the actors (all except Alongi, playing the lead) weaving effortlessly between multiple characters. I especially enjoyed the performances by Rob Lewin and Wilfred Lee; I feel like they are the most effective at dynamic characterization and that they have great chemistry together.

Dewi Minden’s original music added an extra element of entertainment to the performance, and helped to progress the story telling. I’m not sure if this is due to my age, but I did find the sheer number of songs (packed into only an hour-long performance) felt at times a bit tedious and made my attention wander. This is another aspect that I would have appreciated hearing about from a younger person, but I still wonder if the production may have benefited from truncating their soundtrack a bit. 

I’m also curious if this production may have been well suited to the use of microphones. A couple of the actors came out for some pre-show improv and used them then, which I imagine was for the purpose of speaking over audience members settling into their seats. Due to the interactivity of the show, there were a few moments where I had a hard time hearing everything the actors were saying, so it gives me reason to wonder if mics may have been helpful. Again though, I would be curious to hear other audience members’ (of all ages) experiences in this regard.

Overall I had a really fun time and would certainly recommend seeing What the Elf?! with kids in your life. I saw this show just before Christmas, and it certainly bolstered my “holiday spirit”. Even though Christmas has passed, I would still suggest seeing it while the seasonal feelings linger. 

Details:

  • What the Elf?! is playing until January 3, 2020 at The Second City (51 Mercer St.)
  • Shows run every day at 2:00 pm, with select additional shows at 4:30 pm
  • Ticket prices are $14 for children and $18 for adults
  • Tickets are available online, by phone (416-341-0011), or in-person at the box office

Photo of Kyah Green, Rabiya Mansoor, Bianca Alongi, Wilfred Lee, Connie Manfredi and Rob Lewin by Paul Aihoshi

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