Don’t be a cotton headed ninny-muggins, see ‘Elf the Musical’


Olivia Apa/NW

Cast members of the “Elf the Musical” show prepare for opening night which is Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. The show will run until Dec. 11 and include a matinee performance specifically for those with audio and visual sensitivity.

Olivia Apa, Features Writer

From costumes to lighting to choreography, NMU Theatre and Dance has been working diligently on all aspects to put on their performance of “Elf the Musical.”

The show is a live musical adaptation of the Christmas family favorite movie “Elf” and will have seven performances over the course of finals week.

“It is just a really fun show basically. After COVID happening, last year has been such a downer and I feel like … this [show] could really help brighten people’s spirits up,” said Emma Block, a third-year theatre major and stage manager for “Elf the Musical.” “It is just a really cute, fun, happy story.”

As stage manager, Block overviews nearly every aspect of the show including technical elements and following actors to make sure everything runs smoothly. 

“It is definitely a lot of hard work, but I am really happy I can be in this position too,” said Block. “It is just a really fun experience … because I have never really had very much experience in the past with being in a higher-up position.”

This is one of the largest shows the Forest Roberts Theatre has seen since before the pandemic, so there are certainly many aspects to take into consideration when rehearsing and performing. 

One of the factors that Block mentioned was the variety of costumes for the cast, saying that one actor has around 10 seconds to make a costume change until they have to go back on stage. 

“‘[Elf the Musical]’ is literally the biggest show I have ever been involved in from my entire career,” said Block. 

Toni Danz, senior theater tech and design major, is the production stage manager for “Elf the Musical” which has more responsibility than a stage manager. 

“I am calling cues for lighting, for scenery to fly in. I am checking in with backstage just to make sure actors are there,” said Danz. “It is a lot of work with making sure the show goes as smoothly as possible.”

Danz originally wanted to pursue directing in the world of theatre, but she ultimately decided to focus more on the different aspects of what goes on backstage and stage management. 

“I think being able to work with both the cast and the designers is what really interested me … because you get to see both all of the creation of the set, but then also all of the work and into the characters and things like that,” said Danz. 

Danz has been a part of the theatre department for four years, and she said her favorite part of the program is the relationships she has made. 

“We are all very understanding and very supportive of each other. Everybody is very willing to help out and willing to do whatever they can to make the show as good as possible,” said Danz. “Everybody’s angle is the same when it comes to working on a show, and it is doing what you can to make it the best that it can be.”

When it comes to “Elf the Musical,” the community the theatre department has created is beneficial in making the show come to life. 

“This show specifically … [is] the biggest show that has been on stage since COVID,” said Danz. “I think it has been really fun to get back into using all of these props and having all of the scenery and having it be like a real, fun, huge show.” 

While putting on a large production is exciting, Danz believes it is equally as challenging.

“[We are] really getting back into the swing of having a whole bunch of props to be moved … and having a bunch of costume changes that people need to do throughout the show,” said Danz. “It has definitely been a learning curve to get back into the rhythm of all of it, but I think everybody has been doing a really good job.”

One of the actors that Danz overlooks is none other than Buddy the Elf, played by Ethan Puisto, a third-year music major and theatre minor. 

Puisto has pursued theatre since his childhood, going to high school for musical theatre, attending various summer theatre camps and enrolling in the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University for his first two years of college. 

However, the pandemic happened and Puisto decided to complete his degree at NMU to escape the chaos in Chicago at the time. 

Considering his already extensive theatre experience, Puisto noted that NMU’s theatre program is unlike any other program he has been a part of. 

“Anybody who is a student at NMU or a community member … can audition for the mainstage shows, which is really cool because there are a lot of talented people who are not music majors or are not theatre majors,” said Puisto. 

There are positions on stage and behind the scenes that anyone can audition for, which is the leap Puisto took when auditioning for Buddy the Elf. 

“Buddy is such an iconic role, and I was a little nervous initially to take it on because it is so well known, and everybody knows Will Ferrell and looks up to him and thinks he is the greatest,” said Puisto. 

In response to those worries, Hunter Foster, director of the musical, told Puisto to play the role in a way that resonates with him instead of impersonating Will Ferrell.

“It has been really good and exciting to work with Hunter Foster … because he has a lot of credits under his belt,” said Puisto. “It has been really awesome having the opportunity to work with him because he just knows what he is doing and it is refreshing.” 

“Elf the Musical” is opening Friday, Dec. 3 in the Forest Roberts Theatre at 8 p.m and will run until Friday, Dec. 11. 

Tickets are $17 for the public, $12 for NMU faculty/staff, military and seniors, $10 for students and $5 for NMU students with ID. They can be purchased on NMU’s ticketing website.  

Additionally, the Theatre and Dance Department reached out to the NMU Food Pantry with the opportunity to work together during “Elf the Musical” to gather donations. 

Buddy the Elf indulges in many delectable foods such as spaghetti noodles, syrup and Pop-Tarts, all of which can be donated to the Food Pantry, as well as other non-perishable items. 

“We are hoping people who attend the holiday performance drop off a donation for the food pantry at the food pantry display in the lobby of the theatre,” Haley Rhoades, advisor for the NMU Food Pantry, said.

The week leading up to opening night is full of complete dress rehearsals and excitement, consuming the lives of those involved. 

“I am in class until five and then we start rehearsal at seven and then we go to 11 every night, so it is go, go, go, go, go … very painful,” said Puisto.

There is just as much intensity for non-cast members, too. 

“I definitely do not think I have much of a life outside the theatre when it comes to having a tech week and rehearsals and stuff like that, but that is kind of the name of the game when you are in a show,” said Danz. 

Cast and crew alike are putting in immense work to make “Elf the Musical” the best production it can be.

“Personally, I do not like Christmas and I like this show,” said Danz. “It is really funny. It is fast-paced. It is filled with a bunch of really fun music. I think it would be really nice if everybody comes and we get to see a full audience.”