The St. Croix Central Middle School drama department will bring the silliness and fun of “Elf” the movie to the stage when they put on three performances of “Elf the Musical, Jr.” from Friday, Dec. 1 through Sunday, Dec. 3.
“The timing was just right for us to do this show. I’ve been interested in doing a Christmas show for a while, and we decided to do the musical in the fall rather than the spring to allow the new high school director to have more time to get ready for her first show here,” said director Michelle Schmitt.
Anna Van Rossum will play Buddy the Elf, who leaves Santa (Karter LaVenture) and the North Pole behind to find his dad, Walter Hobbs (Nicholas Mohrhauser) in New York City. There he finds Walter's son Michael (Owen Rozeboom) and wife Emily (Morgan Schmidt) and a girlfriend, too (Anna Sauer) and transforms their Christmas spirit, as well as everyone else in New York City.
“This musical is good for middle school age kids because there is a lot of silliness and I like to have the humor in the plays for the kids as well,” Schmitt said. “There are a couple of scenes that are pretty flashy with a lot of different stuff going on and things to watch. It lends itself pretty well to this age group.”
The performances are Friday, Dec. 1, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 2, at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 3, at 2 p.m. in the SCC Community Auditorium. Tickets are $4 for adults, $2 for students/seniors and free for preschool. Tickets will only be sold at the door.
According to Schmitt, a total of 72 students will be part of the play, with another 60 or so helping out backstage.
“The main character has a lot of memorization, so that is a challenge. She has been charged with a lot of things to learn and memorize,” Schmitt said. “The other big challenge is that we have 72 kids in the show and it was written for about 21 kids. I try to incorporate different things to make kids feel special and part of the show. I don’t turn anybody away because I feel like middle school is the time to try this stuff. And if they don’t try it in middle school they will never know if they like it or not.”
For those who know “Elf” the movie, Schmitt says they can expect to see more or less the same things in the musical, with just a few tweaks.
“The musical isn’t that much different from Elf the movie. It follows the storyline pretty closely, but takes out a few things from the movie that might be inappropriate. The storyline changes a little, like the way that Buddy loses the story is different,” Schmitt said. “I think the kids are more engaged when we do a musical because the songs are what make it more engaging and fun for any age group. When I do musicals here I don’t treat the middle schoolers like middle schoolers. I have the same expectations that I would for anybody. That has always has gone well for me. It has been a lot of work, and very frustrating and worrying at times, but at the end it all pulls together.”
Unlike most years, this year’s leads all went to eighth graders, which is not something Schmitt guarantees with any of her shows.
“All of those kids were capable of doing a lot of stuff, so it was a challenge to find a balance between what they have done in the past and giving everybody a chance to have a bigger part,” Schmitt said. “It will be harder for next year’s group because none of the seventh graders will have had the experience of being in a bigger part or lead role.”
Although this won’t be the first time Schmitt has put on a show in the new auditorium at St. Croix Central High School, she is still excited about finding new ways to use the space to her advantage.
“The set is pretty fantastic and the set crew has been amazing,” Schmitt said. “We are incorporating the fly system with some backdrops and things hanging from the fly system. We will also paint a full backdrop, which is a big challenge. I’m not sure where we will lay that down and paint it. We are also renting a snow machine for the show.”