By Tanner Stransky
Updated November 30, 2012 at 05:00 AM EST
ELF Jordan Gelber and Wayne Knight
Credit: Joan Marcus

The best holiday traditions don’t change much, and that’s the case with the return of Elf, the movie-turned-musical which originally debuted at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in 2010 and lands back on the Great White Way this year. In two years at the North Pole, Buddy the Elf & Co. haven’t changed much.

The show opens with a new musical number, but most of the changes involve casting. Wayne Knight replaces George Wendt in the crucial supporting role as Santa. But the biggest difference involve the leads: Jordan Gelber creates a softer, more childlike Buddy at the center of the show, while Leslie Kritzer is more pensive and understated as love interest Jovie, a role that still never quite gets its due. Still, it’s the wonderful supporting cast that steals the show. That list of returning players — all perfectly cast the first time around — includes Mark Jacoby and Beth Leavel, who play Buddy’s father and stepmother; Michael Mandell, who makes his Macy’s manager character one of the show’s highlights; and Valerie Wright, whose beaming smile as a secretary puts you immediately in the holiday spirit. Newcomer Mitchell Sink, as the jaded-turned-believer Michael, possesses a downright shocking voice for an adolescent — ”voice of an angel” would not be an overstatement.

Elf won’t change your life, but it will brighten your holiday season a little bit. This line is repeated in the show over and over and over: ”The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” Mission (still) accomplished. B+

(Tickets: 800-432-7250 or

Opening date: Nov. 18, 2012; lead performers: Jordan Gelber, Leslie Kritzer, Wayne Knight; writers: Chad Beguelin, Bob Martin, Thomas Meehan, Matthew Sklar; director: Casey Nicholaw; genre: musical, revival