Everyone's favorite candy spaghetti-eating elf is coming to Amador Theater as the Pleasanton Youth Theatre Company (PYTC) Main Stage casts will take the stage in "Elf the Musical Jr." beginning next weekend.
This the first main stage show since the pandemic for PYTC, an in-house theater program for youth run by The City of Pleasanton.
Based on the 2003 holiday classic movie "Elf", starring Will Ferrell as Buddy the elf, the musical will follow the orphaned child who found his way to Santa Claus' North Pole and his journey as an adult to New York City in search for his birth father and his true identity.
A total of 52 kids ages 10 to 18 have been split into two casts -- the candy cane and gumdrop casts -- and each cast will perform four times over two weekends, Dec. 9 - 11 and Dec. 16 - 18. Shows will be at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at the Amador Theater, 1155 Santa Rita Road, Pleasanton.
"I think people (are) really excited to see this level of show," city library and recreation coordinator Jeff Zavattero told the Weekly. "'Elf' is one of the beloved holiday classic Christmas movies and there's not really a lot of opportunities to see this show on stage throughout the Bay Area. So people sound like they've been really excited to bring one of their favorite stories to life on stage and see it in that medium."
Zavattero, who started working with the city in 2013 as a production assistant, said this is his first time overseeing the Pleasanton Youth Theater Company -- the program behind the musical. It is also the first time the Firehouse will produce a show without contracting outside help.
Zavattero said that while the Firehouse has put on a couple of smaller productions leading up to this holiday musical, this being the first main stage play since 2019 means a lot to the community and to the kids.
"We've offered, you know, during that time acting classes and some improv, but (the kids have) been really hungry for a full production," he said. "Now that we have the opportunity to bring it back to the Amador stage, they were ecstatic at the opportunity. They're excited to get back into the theater and we've really put a great show together. I'm really excited for how it turns out."
One major piece of the production that Zavattero highlighted was the fact that the 2 p.m. Saturday performances will all be sensory-friendly performances.
"To accommodate those who are prone to sensory overload, we do sensory-friendly performances where we leave the house lights a bit higher, we change the dramatic lighting to be a bit more subdued and the volume level remains a bit consistent," he said.
He said the decision to do these types of performances came after talking to local groups about working with neurodiverse learners and finding ways to be more accommodating.
"It's been great because we've had participants come up to us and say, 'This is the first time my sister is able to see one of my shows because you're doing this,' " Zavattero said.
And for those who might be worried about seeing a different show, he said that the sensory-friendly version is still the real show, just with a few tweaks here and there to make it more inclusive for everybody.
Zavattero said people should make the time to see both casts as each one has their own unique takes and interpretations on the heartwarming holiday classic, which he said has meant a lot to him as he continues to grow into his role within the program.
"I am really excited about where the program is going. The further we get, the closer we get back to the reality that we had before the pandemic hit. And I know it means a lot to the kids, but it means equally to me," Zavattero said.
"'Elf' is a show that has, I think, two strong morals, one of which is it's never too late to grow. I think that applies to us because, as much as the kids are learning, I'm learning just as much about myself in this role, and myself as a director."
He said the second moral of the show is about finding your place in the world, and that is something that resonates with him when talking about theater.
"I think that's what theater is for a lot of people -- finding who you are, trying out different things without judgment, going out there and sometimes making a fool of yourself on stage just to try something new," Zavattero said. "I think this is a welcoming environment for that, and I think this is a show that demonstrates that no matter who you are, you can find your place."
Tickets for the musical are $10 per person and can be purchased at the Firehouse Arts Center website.