Just when you think Christmas is over and you remember that you are booked in to see the musical Elf at The Brighton Centre. So I wrap up warm and head into town hoping that I can rekindle my festive spirit. I confess to having never seen, bar a few famous clips, the iconic film so I have little idea what to expect.

The Brighton Centre is a cavernous space and takes some filling, especially when turned over to a theatrical event, and over the years I have seen it work well, but never as well as this. Elf is a totally immersive production, the seating laid out so that the action not only takes place on the vast stage but in and amongst the audience with the cast running and skating through us and settings trucked out and about throughout. There’s even a police buggy which the two excellent comedy cops drive about in.

The staging is great and the backdrop displays amazingly slick digital animations and close ups of the cast on screens  mean that we can all share in the experience that the people in the front centre are enjoying.

If you are getting the impression that I was impressed by the show you would be right. This is a slick show with very high production values, a great story and a large cast.

And when I say cast we come to the heart of this night out because the cast are simply great, from the ensemble to the principals, they are wonderful, not a weak member on that stage and some great solo performances and voices and great dance numbers too.

At the heart of the show is of course Buddy, the elf/man, an extraordinary creation, not a Peter Pan character, something entirely different, an adult raised without any of the trappings of adulthood, I sort of envy that. Here he is played with extraordinary energy and conviction by Steven Serlin and when I say energy I mean ENERGY! It’s non-stop, from that first entrance to the final number, he simply bounds about the stage and the arena in a whirlwind of innocent charm. And there is energy in his face too, thank heavens for the live camera close-ups so we can enjoy that visage, it brings to live theatre a more cinematic experience but one that is delivered there and then and as such demands of an actor total commitment.

In addition the circus tricks, interaction with the audience of very mixed ages and special effects that are second to none, especially in the final scene when Santa and his sleigh, which we have seen sweeping across the screen, suddenly appears in reality soaring above the cast and then looming out above the audience, so well executed that as a gentleman of a “certain age” I left believing in Father Christmas.

Andrew Kay

5 January

The Brighton Centre

Rating: ★★★★★

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