Toby Russell, stars as Buddy the Elf, during rehearsal of “Elf the Musicial” at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Toby Russell, stars as Buddy the Elf, during rehearsal of “Elf the Musicial” at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

‘Elf’-centered: JDHS brings musical based on hit movie to its stage

What’s your favorite color?

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé will soon be spreading holiday cheer by singing loud for all to hear.

The high school’s production of “Elf the Musical,” which is an adaptation of the immensely popular holiday comedy starring Will Ferrell, opens Friday.

A holiday-themed production has been a long time coming, said Michaela Moore, English and theater teacher for JDHS and director of the show. She said there has not been a wintertime show connected to the season since at least 2008 when she began working with the theater.

[Take a peak at “Elf the Musical”]

“We wanted to do a Christmas show,” Moore said. “We’ve never done a Christmas show. ‘Elf’ is my favorite Christmas movie.”

Kayla Kohlhase, left, Toby Russell, Roman Mahanyu, Shelby Yor, right, rehearse “Elf the Musicial” at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Kayla Kohlhase, left, Toby Russell, Roman Mahanyu, Shelby Yor, right, rehearse “Elf the Musicial” at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Plus, she said she expected the choice would be a hit with students. Based on what cast and crew had to say, Moore was right.

“I love the movie, it’s so funny,” said Kayla Kohlhase, a JDHS senior who choreographed the show and plays Jovi.

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While the musical shares some characters and plot points with the hit movie, there are some differences. Bob Newhart’s papa elf character is out, a science fair project plays a prominent role in the musical’s madcap happenings and there’s two acts worth of original songs.

“It’s really fun to take on the fun roles of the movie and see it adapted for the stage,” Kohlhase said. “I actually really like the songs. I think they’re super upbeat and fun.”

While Kohlhase has been involved in JDHS’ theater productions since her freshman year, Moore said “Elf the Musical” attracted a handful of first-timers to the stage.

Twins George and Richard Corpuz, JDHS seniors, are two of the newcomers. George Corpuz plays an elf, Sam, a kid, a fake Santa and Chadwick in the show, and Richard Corpuz plays Charlie, Mr. Greenway, a security guard and a fake Santa.

Fake Santa, played by Richard Corpuz, left, and Buddy the Elf, played by Toby Russell, rehearse in “Elf the Musicial” at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Fake Santa, played by Richard Corpuz, left, and Buddy the Elf, played by Toby Russell, rehearse in “Elf the Musicial” at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

“I think it looks good on college resumes,” George Corpuz said while explaining why he’s acting in a play for the first time. “It’s such a good experience.”

The twins said they’re fans of the show as well.

“It’s a good story to tell,” said George Corpuz.

“It’s funny as well,” added Richard Corpuz.

The show also recruited some parents to the ranks of its cast, Moore said.

One of the musical numbers in “Elf” calls for multiple singing Santas, and Moore said there weren’t enough young men to fill the roles.

“I needed a lot of guys,” Moore said.

Roman Mahanyu, a JDHS sophomore, is playing the show’s one, true Santa, and said it’s been a challenge to portray the ebullient elder elf.

“I like it,” Mahanyu said. “I’m just struggling with it a little bit. I have to be jolly. I just kind of put my self in that state of mind when I’m hyper.”

Mahanyu, who also plays a department store manager in “Elf,” said that more sardonic role came more naturally.

“When I found out I was the manager, too, I was like, ‘Oh, I got this,” Mahanyu said.

Toby Russell, a JDHS sophomore who plays Buddy in the show, also mentioned his character’s bubbly personality.

Both Buddy and the musical are filled with manic positivity.

“It’s lots of energy,” Russell said. “I think it’s going to be super fun for everyone who comes to see it. It’s a really high-energy show.”

Part of that energy will come from its holiday card-inspired set, and some special effects courtesy of the crew.

Walter Hobbs, played by Jager Hunt, left, and Buddy the Elf, played by Toby Russell, rehearse “Elf the Musicial” at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Walter Hobbs, played by Jager Hunt, left, and Buddy the Elf, played by Toby Russell, rehearse “Elf the Musicial” at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

“I’m the one who gets to make it snow,” said Kaitlyn McDowell, a JDHS junior with glee.

McDowell, who was wearing a headband with candy cane horns and red-and-green eye shadow, said she was pleased to be part of the production. Volleyball season prevented her from auditioning for an acting role.

“I just like being part of the play and being part of the theater group,” she said. “It’s just so much fun.”

[An inside look at Juneau’s program for chronic inebriates]

Know & Go

What: “Elf the Musical”

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Juneau Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Auditorium, 1639 Glacier Ave.

Admission: Tickets cost $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors, $10 for students and $5 for children 5 and younger. Tickets are available at Hearthside Books and at the door of the event. They’re also available online at jdhsdrama.com and jahc.org.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com . Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt


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