Just in time for the Christmas season, the Elf on the Self: A Christmas Musical is coming to Chrysler Hall for one night only November 30th with a special starting time of 6:00 PM Be prepared to be transported to the North Pole and experience heartfelt moments into the magical lives of Santa’s Scout Elves. With its original story and score, dazzling sets and costumes, this is a joy for the whole family.
Mills Entertainment requires all attendees over the age of two, to wear face covering regardless of vaccination status. Socially distanced seating is also available on the Dress Circle and Right and Left Balcony Boxes. For more info go to https://www.sevenvenues.com/events/detail/the-elf-on-the-shelf
Yiorgo: With us today is Peter Hughes who plays Tater Tot, one of the reporting Scout Elves that the story centers around. What is the story of the Elf on the Self: A Christmas Musical about?
Peter Hughes: The Elf on the Self: A Christmas Musical transports the audiences directly to the North Pole. They get a glimpse into the lives and duties of Santa’s Scout Elves, who are sent to train, watch and report to Santa. The story centers around Tater
Tot, the Scout Elf who is sent to help a new human family remember the importance of Christmas cheer. It’s a sweet show that the audiences will get a kick out of the Holiday season especially if they are familiar with the brand and have an elf on the shelf at home. It's a great show that’s not just for kids. It has a lot of heart and magic to it and a lot of production numbers. It brings it to life in a very cool way.
Y: Why should people come to see Elf on the Self: A Christmas Musical?
PH: After last year, a lot of people are looking for a reason to smile and connect with each other and Elf on the Self: A Christmas Musical does exactly just that. Because it’s based on a specific brand, the story is completely original and truly audiences of all ages will connect with it. It’s not just a kid’s show, it’s for the parents, it’s for the entire family. There are large production numbers, incredible set designs, some new special effects this year that I think really raise an amazing production element that everyone will really enjoy.
Y: How long have you been with the show?
PH: I have been with the show since the beginning. I auditioned starting in the summer of 2019 and I originated the role I play right now, in the original company two years ago and I am part of the production this year.
Y: What was the audition process like?
PH: The wonderful, world renown Director, Sam Scalamoni brought me in for the initial audition. New York auditions all happen the same way. There are a lot of people in the room, you sing a couple of songs from your book and this one included a pretty lengthy dance audition. Our show was choreographed by Broadway veteran Charlie Sutton and it was magnificent to get to work with him. I originally auditioned for the dance call, was brought in for a couple of rounds after rounds for different singing sides, singing things from my book, singing somethings from the show. We read some scenes from the show and what was really unique was that this was an original musical, so a lot of us auditioning didn’t really know what the show was about because it had never been done before. but you’re able to bring your own character, knowing that this is something you will help create.
So after a lot of dance auditions, it was a lot of jazz, tap dancing, it came down to a couple of actors and we had a final call back day, where we got to work with Sara Woodsworth and Russ Kaplan who are the amazing composers of the show. We would sing different tunes from the show, test different harmonies and after a couple of months of getting video auditions and video requests in, I got an email from our GM who offered me the part and that was super, super exciting. When you are part of something that has never been done before and we are in the room creating these characters, to have that hand in it, was really, really interesting.
Y: And in the middle of all of this there was covid.
PH: We started in the summer of 2019 and then with rehearsals in October. Our initial tour ran in the Holiday season of 2019 into the first week of January, then our industry shot down soon after. We picked things up again this October of 2021, touring until the end of December, hitting forty cities. What I also enjoy about the show is the connection of the kids and their parents who have such an appreciation for the brand, the Christmas time and the traditions. To see something they love so much brought to life in such a fun way is so exciting. It’s that joy when you really start to have fun at work and you realize it's not really work. We are bringing these awesome dance numbers, to dust off the tap shoes after a few years for audiences that are just so hungry for it. To create a new Holiday tradition is so wonderful and especially in this time of post covid when we can safely gather again in theatres in a way that has been absent in so long.
Y: What are some of your favorite numbers in the show?
PH: We have a great opening number called ‘Scout Elf School’ and it’s so much fun. It’s basically the elves learning how to watch and report to Santa. It is razzle dazzle, with a lot of elements of our show, and the full cast is on the stage by that point. It is a great shot out of the canon that says hey, this is what the show is going to be. A great spectacle of high quality dance numbers.
Right after that I got a song called ‘One Small Elf’. It’s a super cute song that I get to sing to the cast members and have a little moment with each of them. It’s also a great moment for the message of the show, that together we can do great things to bring cheer. Right after that is another song that I love called ‘Classic Pose’ that is a high energy, tap dance number. We are dancing on benches, inside of boxes, it’s so much fun to do.
Y: I have to ask. When you were a child, did your parents have an elf on the self?
PH: We did, it was fantastic. I knew what it was about and to bring it alive in a musical theatre way is such a blessing. I have been performing since I was little. It’s such a full circle thing that I really appreciate being a part of.
Y: Where were you born and what made you fall in love with musical theatre?
PH: I am originally from New Jersey, about an hour train ride from New York City. The theatre bug hit me when I was very little. I started watching different theatrical specials that were airing on TV and that led to community theatre. I started taking it very seriously when I was in high school. I started to take classes at Broadway Dance Center in New York City. In high school I was very fortunate and privileged to see Broadway shows very cheaply. You could take a student ID and watch a show. It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized how fortunate I was to be so close and see the shows. What sealed the deal for me was seeing these shows live, learning the names and being taken in and inspired to do that as well. It eventually led me to make the decision to study musical theatre in college. I was fortunate and privileged to attend Point Park University’s Conservatory of Performing Arts. I studied musical theatre there with a minor in dance. They had exactly what I needed to hone my craft. I love to sing and dance any day.
Y: Who are some of the hoofers and dancers in theatre and movies that you look up to?
PH: There’s a lot of people. I grew up watching a lot of Audra McDonald, Barbara Streisand, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and their movie musicals, Judy Garland and Wizard of OZ, A Chorus Line, Michael Bennett’s style of choreography. It is a melting pot of people.
Y: How about a pinch me type moment for you?
PH: After I finished my contract with the sea cruise line, I auditioned for the next touring production of A Chorus Line. It was going to be directed by Baayork Lee, a Tony award winning Broadway veteran who was the original Connie in the original Michael Bennett 1976 production. For me it was oh my gosh, I’m going to have the opportunity to audition. I’m going to get to dance a little Chorus Line for Baayork Lee and maybe get to meet her. There were so many people excited to be there like me, for its history and its impact, to audition. I got in the room, I auditioned, it was so wonderful, she conducts her auditions in such a specific style that I was so excited to be a part of. That led to a call back. I couldn't believe that Baayork Lee was behind the table. We did more dancing, and the next day I received another call back, Bobby Avian was there and a
few more Chorus Line alumni were behind the table. I was a little bit more nervous. I ended up getting an email that simply said, which I think it’s a pun on the opening number, ‘You got it’. It was the most defining moment. We would love to have you play Mark in the 2017 touring company of A Chorus Line.
I’ll never forget walking into rehearsal that first day and I think we all understood what we were in for, but never would have expected what we would get out of it. It was the most artistically satisfying two weeks of my life. To learn that show, to learn it’s history, to learn stories, to learn where it was going, was so overwhelmingly exciting. Baayork Lee is the most generous person. She gives her show to her dancers and she trusts them and it’s something I still get goosebumps talking about. Just being a part of that legacy was pretty spectacular and definitely a pinch me moment.
Y: You were part of that legacy and now you are a part of creating a legacy.
PH: Yes and coming off A Chorus Line and seeing where I was going to go and what I was going to do, I had this huge fire within me and then came the Elf on the Self: A Christmas Musical and I had no idea if I was capable of leading the show, being a part of something new. Another pinch me moment was walking into this rehearsal realizing we are going to create something new. This has never been done. I have been very fortunate, very blessed.
Yiorgo is an arts, entertainment and sports writer. A stage, TV and movie actor, he is also a sports entertainer, educator, motivational speaker, writer, storyteller and columnist.