We were intrigued to go see and review Elf – A Christmas Arena Spectacular in the OVO Hydro. Not knowing quite what to expect, we arrived a little early, got our chips & cheese, irn bru & sprite, and settled in for a show that felt like an old friend.
We went and saw Elf – A Christmas Arena Spectacular in 2019, but never published the review! Well, it’s back for the fourth year in a row so we thought that we’d finally hit publish! Read on to hear our thoughts, and let us provide a little insight on what you might experience if you attend the show this year.
Initial thoughts? The “World’s Biggest Pantomime” is fantastic. Live screens in the back provided gorgeous backdrops to the story, with cameras gifting views to those sitting further back in the arena. The singing and music were good, Buddy and Officer Turgeon (Nicolas Turgeoun – yes, that is pun for the Scottish audiences) had great laughs. And the Pauline Quirke Academy Students appeared to be having the time of their lives performing in a professional production. We all know the story, so there’s little point reviewing the script itself. Instead, I thought I’d share what it’s like watching a panto show in a 12,000 seat arena. It’s a little different to your average theatre (for comparison, the Kings Theatre in Glasgow seats 1,785 people)!
Now, this could be the thespian in me, but the size of the venue did create a bit of a barrier. I craved the audience being closer to the stage so that we could catch the small interactions, the expressions and body language between lines. Instead, because of the large arena and it taking time for the sound to carry throughout the venue, the cast had to throw lines away into the audience. Often having to wait for the audience at the very top to respond before moving onto the next phrase. It meant that there were a lot of gaps, silence and waiting between lines. I do wonder how long the show would’ve been if it were in a theatre…
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The speed of sound aside, the arena did give plenty of space for families to spread out and enjoy the show – and not worry about making noise or obstructing the view of those sitting behind. If you have some kiddos that you’d like to introduce to watching live shows, it would be a great one to see. With little to no pressure to “behave” or follow theatre etiquette – it’s a completely different vibe (and that’s not just because of the Scottish audience, that’s the vibe that the show and venue themselves create). There was a fantastic feeling of joy and holiday spirit – maybe it was the Buddy the Elf effect?
So, would I recommend going to see Elf the Musical? You know what, I would recommend it to people. The cast and crew did a wonderful job considering the limitations of the space. It’s not easy performing in a venue that’s too small, the wrong shape or too large, and they did a great job. I wish that there were more opportunities to catch the in between moments. But as mentioned at the beginning of this review, it felt like you were settling in to watch an old favourite. They largely captured the essence of Elf and it was an enjoyable night!
Photo credit: https://www.instagram.com/elfuktour/