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Friends Select Student News Media

The Falcon

Friends Select Student News Media

The Falcon

Reviews of Elf at Cardinal O’Hara

Image Courtesy of Cardinal OHara School
Image Courtesy of Cardinal O’Hara School

Sarah Gorenstien:

This article was chosen for Publication on the Philadelphia Inquirer WordPress Site.

The cast and crew at Cardinal O’Hara High School will certainly be making the “nice list” this year with their production of Elf! The company phenomenally captured the “sparklejollytwinklejingley” of the classic Christmas tale.

Elf!: The Musical is based on the loveable New Line Cinema film, Elf, written by David Berenbaum. With book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, music by Matthew Sklar, and lyrics by Chad Beguelin the musical follows Buddy the Elf on his quest to discover his true identity. As Buddy ventures into New York City and learns that his father is on the “naughty list” he is determined to help all remember the true meaning of Christmas.

The cast of Cardinal O’Hara’s production transported the audience straight into Santa’s workshop. The ensemble played a critical role in bringing this merry world to life. Fortunately, the performers were ready to give it their all, elevating large group numbers to lively heights, with energy and enthusiasm till the final bow. The whole cast was comprised of strong vocalists and versatile dancers, whose mixes and jazz squares filled the stage with vitality. Cardinal O’Hara undoubtedly brought “Christmas cheer” with jolly performances of numbers like “Happy All The Time” and “Nobody Cares,” which showcased the talent of the ensemble as a whole.

Will Donnelly flawlessly embodied Buddy the Elf as he led the show with a “special talent.” His performance anchored in brilliant acting and strong vocals, captivated the audience. His portrayal was a standout, excellently capturing the innocent and optimistic aspects of Buddy. Shannon Daly’s performance as Jovie provided the perfect contrast to Donnelly’s frivolity. Her stellar voice consistently stunned the audience, shining through in numbers like “Never Fall in Love (With an Elf).” 

Further adding to the exceptional cast, Gerard Gallagher fantastically portrayed Walter Hobbs. Gallagher embodied the “Iceman” to a T, and expertly melted Walter down to show the loveable and genuine character at his core. Additionally, Jonathan Viola’s humorous deliveries and physical comedy as Charlie and Mr.Greenway heightened the production. Viola effortlessly switched between various roles, which displayed the skill that went into bringing his characters to life.

The O’Hara Stage Crew admirably executed the transitions between scenes, not a cue was missed. The set for Elf was festive, flexible for scene changes, and made skillful use of the large stage. Furthermore, the tinsel-tastic decor displayed by Cardinal O’Hara’s Marketing team creatively reflected the holly-jolly charm of the Christmas season. 

The cast and crew of Cardinal O’Hara’s Elf! The Musical truly left its audiences feeling merry and bright. 


Sam Goldwert:

At Cardinal O’Hara’s production of “Elf!”, prepare for a “sparklejollytwinklejingley” night of humor, hijinks, charm, and Christmas spirit!

When Buddy, an enthusiastic and energetic elf living at the North Pole, finds out that he is actually human, he sets off for the bustling streets of New York City in search of his human family. However, he is appalled at the lack of joy and Christmas spirit, and makes it his mission to reignite everybody’s love for Christmas, and along the way learns valuable lessons about the true meaning of family. “Elf!” is a classic Christmas story beloved by children and adults alike.

This show requires loads of energy, commitment, and excitement, which was present in everyone involved from the leads to the ensemble to the stage crew.

The leads truly shone in every way. Will Donnelly’s portrayal of Buddy the Elf was full of energy and passion, and his enthusiasm made for a very believable representation of all things Christmas spirit. Shannon Daly balanced out the show beautifully as Jovie, the cynical Macy’s employee that Buddy falls in love with, and her stunning vocals and stage presence made for many heartwarming moments as her character learns the true meaning of Christmas.

Just as notable were the supporting characters and ensemble, whose performances were believable, charming, and integral to the show’s success. Emily Bright and Mac Ciotti in particular stood out as Emily and Michael, Buddy’s stepmother and stepbrother, as their chemistry led to a whimsical yet realistic family dynamic where both mother and son learn to believe in magic. This production features a very large ensemble, and each and every actor’s presence and intention added to the performance in their own unique ways.

The entire cast was supported by a hardworking team of student tech crews who worked tirelessly to keep the production running smoothly. The stage crew, clad in festive hats, consistently executed the many scene changes with extremely impressive speed and precision. Additionally, the sets were thoughtful and creative, utilizing projections and small details to create distinctive settings within a static set. Unfortunately, sound was a notable weak spot of this production, as many performers were difficult to hear due to faulty microphones, and backing tracks at times overpowered the vocals during musical numbers.

Overall, Cardinal O’Hara’s production of “Elf!” was a delight, and any Christmas-haters in the audience should prepare to have their hearts warmed by the enthusiastic and charismatic cast.


Maria Emerick 

At Cardinal O’Hara High School’s production of Elf, you can have a sparklejollytwinklejingley night!

Buddy the Elf is not really an elf, he is a human raised by Santa’s elves. Santa sends Buddy to New York City to find his dad, and to raise the Christmas spirit. Buddy ends up falling in love with Jovie, who he met at Macy’s. He also finds his dad and brings his new family together with Christmas spirit.

Will Donnelly brought a sense of childish joy to Buddy that was entertaining to watch. Donnelly was complemented by Shannon Daly as Jovie. Daly’s portrayal of Jovie provided a nice contrast to Donnelly’s Buddy. Her singing voice was also a highlight of the show, standing out in every number she sang in.

This production was brought to life by the many talented ensemble members. The North Pole ensemble brought so much fun energy into every number they were in. The office ensemble made the Greenway offices feel truly alive. The whole cast’s voices were beautiful and suited the music well. One standout performance was David Berry as the Macy’s manager. He was hilarious in all of his scenes and his singing voice is wonderful.

The Hobbs family was another strong point of the show. The dynamic between Emily Bright and Mac Ciotti as Emily and Michael was very sweet. Bright had a splendid caring energy for Emily. Ciotti enjoyably captured the personality of Michael. Gerard Gallagher’s performance as Walter was great for the grumpy workaholic. The three family members together had a believable tension until the end when the family became whole again.

The stage crew for this production was swift and effective. Scene changes were finished within seconds and the crew was barely seen. Unfortunately, the sound for this production is a weak spot. Mics were often silent or made sounds that distracted from the show. The cast handled this effectively, projecting their voices to be heard despite the sound troubles.

Cardinal O’Hara High School’s production of Elf was an entertaining show that captured the Christmas spirit wonderfully.


Saije Milligan-Swinney

Cardinal O’Hara’s impressive team brought lots of Christmas spirit to their production of Elf the Musical.

Based on the 2003 film of the same name, the musical follows Buddy the Elf , who after finding out that he isn’t truly an elf navigates the chaos of New York City in search of his real dad.

Will Donnelly’s performance as Buddy the Elf was truly a joy to watch. The energy that he brought to the character of Buddy made watching him even if he wasn’t singing extremely entertaining. Shannon Daly had a stand-out performance as Jovie. Her song “Never Fall In Love (With An Elf)” was well performed and her vocal skills are exemplary.

Gerard Gallagher, Emily Bright, and Mac Ciotti as the Hobbs family brought a lot of heart to the show. Their family dynamic was well acted and their love for each other felt very genuine at times. The ensemble was also very impressive. It is very easy to zone out during a  musical number or scene especially if you’re not actively singing or talking; however, the ensemble was always engaged in the moment. Their vocal strength illuminated many of the larger songs in the show including the Act Two Opener “Nobody Cares”.

One of the weaker parts of the show was the mics. At many points during the performance, the actors’ mics were either too low to hear or not in at all. Despite this, the tech booth did a good job in fixing mic levels if they were getting a lot of feedback and keeping the show running. The stage crew was also very swift in the transitions from scene to scene. They were rarely ever seen moving things off stage and if they were they moved with haste.\

Cardinal O’Hara’s production of Elf was full of very strong performances and an awesome tech crew. This show will definitely have you falling in love with Buddy the Elf.


Patrick Ryan:

Smiling is Buddy the Elf’s favorite thing to do, and Cardinal O’Hara’s production of “Elf!” the Musical had the whole audience smiling right along with him.

“Elf!” the Musical premiered in 2010, seven years after the movie it’s based on was released. Like the movie, it tells the story of Buddy, a human raised by elves, who discovers that he is different from his peers. He embarks on a heartwarming journey from the North Pole to New York City to find his family and spread Christmas cheer.

Will Donnelly, playing Buddy the Elf, embodied that Christmas cheer, with big smiles and even bigger laughs whenever he was on stage. Shannon Daly provided a perfect counterweight to Donnely’s cheeriness as Jovie. Daly captured Jovie’s sass and attitude perfectly, and when she began to sing for the first time, there were hoots and hollers from the audience. Her vocals were especially moving in her rendition of Never Fall in Love (With an Elf).

The ensemble was another standout piece of the performance. Everywhere on stage, actors were truly living in the moment of the scene. Jonathon Viola, who played several roles in addition to his ensemble parts, including Charlie the Elf and Mr. Greenway, was especially strong in this regard. Viola’s facial expressions and body humor were eye-catching and hilarious without distracting from the plot of the show.

The technical aspects of the show were very exciting. Matt Viola’s designs, especially his color choices, enhanced many moments. There were times, though, when lighting could be distracting, with frequently misplaced spotlights.

Another strong technical element was the O’Hara Christmas Crew. Transitions felt snappy and smooth; the crew’s use of the several curtains in the theater was especially clever, allowing scene transitions to take place entirely out of view without impeding the show.

If the best way to spread Christmas cheer really is singing loud for all to hear, Cardinal O’Hara High School’s production of “Elf!” the Musical is the perfect way to get in the Christmas spirit.

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About the Contributors
Sarah Gorenstein
Sarah Gorenstein, Game Master

Sarah Gorenstein is a senior at Friends Select and the Game Master for the Falcon. She is also the lead Cappies Critic which specializes in theatre journalism. Her favorite movie is Clue and she is the leader of JSU.

Sam Goldwert
Sam Goldwert, Assistant Editor
Sam Goldwert is a junior at Friends Select and an assistant editor of The Falcon. Sam covers everything from important news updates to fun crosswords and games. They're also a member of QSU and a diversity clerk for the Neurodiversity Club. When not writing, Sam can be found overanalyzing song lyrics or starting countless new art projects.
Patrick Ryan
Patrick Ryan, Editor-in-Chief

Patrick Ryan is a senior at Friends Select and a co-editor-in-chief of The Falcon. Patrick writes about student life, city curriculum, and music. He also helps lead Quake, the Harvard Model Congress, and the Art for Access concert. Patrick spends his time dislocating his shoulder and reading books.

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