'Elf' choreographer describes style as 'MGM meets MTV,' says tour will be 'fun, fresh & young'

'I grew up watching MGM movies, but I'm a child of the MTV era.' - Connor Gallagher

Matt Kopec (Buddy) and the cast of “Elf The Musical.” Photo by Joan Marcus

Matt Kopec (Buddy) and the cast of “Elf The Musical.” Photo by Joan Marcus

ON THE WEB

Web: elfthemusicalontour.com

Facebook: /elfthemusicalontour

Twitter: @elfthetour

IF YOU GO

What: Musical version of the 2003 Will Ferrell comedy about an orphan raised at the North Pole who decides to find his family

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday - Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m., 3 p.m. & 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 27 - Dec. 2)

Where: Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, 13350 Edison Parkway, Fort Myers

Cost: $67, $52, $42, $32

Information: Call 481-4849 or go to bbmannpah.com

Something Else: Parking is sometimes chaotic because of evening classes at Edison College. Park farther out and escape the after-show traffic jams.

On the Web: More theater news at The Stage Door blog

— Connor Gallagher was listening to Christmas music in August on the New York subway. Temperatures were hitting the 90-degree mark and folks were staring at him sideways.

Don't chalk this one up to Christmas creep though. It was for work. He promises.

Gallagher put together the choreography for a re-imagined tour of "Elf the Musical" that hits Fort Myers later this month. The show runs Nov. 27 - Dec. 2 at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall.

"I would absolutely call myself a Christmas person," Gallagher says.

Not only did he see the original 2003 Will Ferrell film, about an orphan that stows away in Santa's sack only to wake up at the North Pole, in theaters - he revisited the show before starting work this summer.

"I thought it was a really great addition to the canon of holiday films," Gallagher said of "Elf." "I loved the slightly darker humor and thought it was a really fun, contemporary twist on the [holiday] ideas we already know and love."

A Broadway revival of the 2010 holiday production of "Elf" mean that Gallagher and director Sam Scalamoni had the freedom to re-invent their production for the five-city tour. While the production is based on designs from the original Broadway show, Gallagher said that the team had "a lot of wiggle room" to give "Elf" more of a sense of humor and do something "fun, fresh and young" with the show.

Gallagher has an eclectic resume that includes puts musicals like "Bunnicula," "Duck for President," "Perez Hilton Saves the Universe" alongside traditional favorites like "Annie," "Chicago" and "Evita." He describes his style as "MTV meets MGM."

What does that mean?

"I grew up watching MGM movies," Gallagher explains, "but I'm a child of the MTV era."

His dance moves have an old-school flair, but with a modern sensibility. And he goes for comedy whenever possible - such as a number that features elves tap-dancing while on their knees.

He won't reveal more, but calls it "something to see" and chuckles with obvious glee.

His favorite "witty and fantastic" scene comes at the top of the second act; don't dally in the lobby after intermission. The "Nobody Cares About Santa Claus" number features dozens of department store and street-corner Santas inside a Chinese restaurant.

"They have this whole number with all these Santas," Gallagher said, "and they do this big song and dance with brilliant lyrics lamenting the loss of Christmas spirit."

While the film was a comedic vehicle for Will Ferrell, Gallagher wants audiences to associate the musical with a broader, more comedic experience.

"We're allowed to go a little wackier with things," he said, pointing to office scenes that now include singing, scatty dance numbers with people throwing paper in the air, dancing on desks and reveling in a way that looks natural on stage - but might seem out of place in film.

Underneath the music, dance, elves and carols - the show does have a message. "Elf" wants audiences to reflect on acceptance and learn about hasty judgements. It also offers a heart-warming missive about putting aside differences to be with family at the holidays.

"It's not necessarily about the gifts and the madness of the holidays," Gallagher said. "Even though we all have our differences, we put them aside to be with our loved ones."

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