Center Stage presents Elf Jr. The Musical Dec. 14 at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre, featuring Gracie Gilowski (front left), Amelia Spitzer (from right), Emi Nicolson (back from left), Breanna Jolly, Elena Friesen, Inara Whitefield and Miyah Nicolson. (Jeremy Daniel Illustration)

Seasonal spirit shines in Vernon production of Elf

Center Stage Performing Arts Academy presents musical Dec. 14

If you’re not quite feeling the holiday spirit, or are just looking for an extra dose, Center Stage is ready to get your Sparkle, Jolly, Twinkle, Jingly on.

The Performing Arts Academy Junior Company presents Elf Jr., The Musical Dec. 14 at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.

“It’s really funny,” said 10-year-old Amelia Spitzer who plays Michael in the production based upon the New Line Cinema film written by David Berenbourm and book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin.

Keira Gloeckler, the 11-year-old Hillview Elementary student who plays Deb, adds: “It’s hilarious. It’s a fun production. It’s not cheesy but it’s kind of crazy.”

Starring as Buddy, 17-year-old Elena Friesen is the oldest cast member working with the approximately 150 Kindergarten to Grade 8 performers. While she may be the oldest, she has the most childlike role as the inane elf who helps spread Christmas cheer to those who are feeling more Scrooge-like.

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“I like Elena’s hyperness. She’s so kiddish, like a seven-year-old,” said Coldstream Elementary student Emi Nicolson, 11, who plays Buddy’s dad, Walter Hobbs.

Playing a more mature role as Jovi is 12-year-old Inara Whitefield.

“We all have to act older than we are,” she said. “Except Elena.”

Friesen, who attends Students Without Borders, has been studying under Center Stage owner Charity Van Gameren since she was little and is now an assistant instructor.

“I’ve been working with these guys for the past few years,” said Friesen. “It’s a nice experience to work with them instead of teaching them. I love working with them.”

Watching them develop confidence and skill on stage is also a pleasure for both Friesen and Van Gameren.

“They slowly grow up through the programs and their abilities grow,” said Van Gameren. “By the time they get into Grades 5-7, they’re ready to take on bigger roles.”

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They’ve even managed to master the tongue-twisting verses of a key song in the play.

“The hardest part of the whole show is saying Sparkle, Jolly, Twinkle, Jingly,” said Van Gameren.

While the young actors have matured in their roles in Elf, there is also a lot of juvenile fun that plays out on stage.

“There are some really good comedic moments,” said Van Gameren. “What a good dose of Christmas cheer.”

Adds 12-year-old Breanna Jolly, who plays Emily: “When you go on stage, there’s so much energy.”

Joining the junior company are members of Actors Toolbox (featured in the North Pole scene) and the dance group.

“So it’s not just the musical theatre group,” said Van Gameren. “They all get to be involved, which they love.”

Elf Jr. takes the Performing Arts Centre stage Friday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $23 for adults and $20 for students and seniors, available at ticketseller.ca or 250-549-7469.


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