Buddy the elf

Isaac Leinen, as Buddy the elf, moments after he learns that he is not actually an elf - like all the others in the background. Photo by Dan Mundt

“We’re in the countdown week and a half, so now’s when everyone starts to get a little stressed because we really want it to be perfect,” said Laurel Olsen, language arts instructor at Denison High School (DHS), on Wednesday of this week.

The Denison Community Schools production of “Elf,” the 2019 community musical, will have its premiere next Friday night, November 8, at the DHS Fine Arts Center. The Friday and Saturday performances will be at 7 p.m. A matinee will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, November 10.

Olsen said the production is going well.

“I think all of the actors are doing a great job knowing their lines, their dance moves and their songs,” Olsen said.

She is co-directing with DHS vocal teacher Kandice Thompson.

The pit orchestra, under the direction of Patti Bekkerus, Denison Middle School instrumental music teacher, was added to the rehearsals in the last two weeks.

“That’s been a pretty smooth transition so far,” Olsen said.

The timing between the musicians and the performers on stage is an area the production is working through.

Rented costumes and set pieces should arrive this weekend.

“We’ll have them for all of our practices next week,” Olsen said.

The sets and set pieces that are being constructed at the school are nearly complete.

A kitchen set, tables, benches and a big Christmas tree are a few of the pieces that were built.

“We have a few that need a little bit of finishing up on,” she said.

Ordinary office furniture will fill out the office sets, which simplified the process of dressing the sets, Olsen said.

Organizing the props is a major task.

“I think we have all the props, but making sure we remember to use them all and have them all in the right places is a little bit tricky,” Olsen said. “There are a lot of props in this show.”

The numerous scene changes compound the problem.

Some locations appear on stage, are removed, and then reappear several scenes later.

“Trying to make sure we don’t misplace anything between scenes can be challenging,” she said.

Olsen continues to recruit behind-the-scenes help.

“I think every practice I’ve added at least one more student who is helping backstage,” she said. “The more the merrier.”

She said the cast members have grown into their characters over the last few weeks.

“Isaac (Leinen) definitely has tons of energy and I think his character is going to get a lot of laughs,” Olsen said.

Leinen plays the main character, Buddy the elf, who goes on a journey from the North Pole to find his real family in New York City.

“Isaac does a fabulous job pulling out the humor. He has exquisite facial expressions and great timing,” she said.

“A lot of the other characters play sort of the straight man to him. I think they’re doing a nice job developing those characters and getting comfortable with them.”

The cast and crew will be working through the logistics of costume changes when all the costumes are on hand.

“We do have a few costume changes,” Olsen noted.

The production will feel very different for the performers once all the backdrops are added.

“We’ve been practicing as if we have them, but once we have them in palace it will feel and look a lot different,” she said. “There might be some slight adjustments we have to get used to.”

Olsen said as long as the cast and crew can keep their energy up, the show will go well.

“I think having an audience is really what we need right now,” she said. “We’re at that stage where mostly we are just ready to.”

She thinks audience members, whether or not they have seen the film version of “Elf,” will enjoy the show.

“It’s just a very sweet story and very funny,” Olsen said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Olsen said she won’t be able to relax until after the live performances next weekend, though her hands-on role is starting to wind down.

“Once we get to the dress rehearsal, I feel my job is about over,” she said. “My stage managers are running things, Patti is running the pit and I have great tech help, so most of those things are pretty much done. I just stand up in the booth with a headset on pacing back and forth and reminding people of things they already know.”

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