'Elf' lightens things up as Northwest grad focuses on acting - Omaha.com
Published Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 1:08 am
'Elf' lightens things up as Northwest grad focuses on acting

"Elf: The Musical"
What: Broadway touring musical
Where: Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St.
When: Tonight through Sunday
Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. tonight through Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday; and 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets: $30 to $85
Information: 402-345-0606, toll-free 866-434-8587, at ticketomaha.com or in person at the Holland Center box office, 13th and Douglas Streets

* * *

Yes, you can go home again after all.

Buddy, the 6-foot-2 elf, proves that in the Broadway touring musical “Elf,” which arrives tonight at the Orpheum Theater for a weeklong run.

And Omaha native Kevyn Morrow, a successful stage and television actor who's in the cast of “Elf,” has proven it twice.

Morrow, a Northwest High School grad, came home in May 2006 to star as Coalhouse Walker Jr. in “Ragtime” at the Omaha Community Playhouse. That same role earned him an Olivier Award nomination (Britain's equivalent of the Tony) for best actor in a musical.

The two musicals, and Morrow's roles, could hardly be more different.

“Ragtime,” based on E.L. Doctorow's novel, is a serious look at race and immigration in America at the dawn of the 20th century. Coalhouse Walker Jr., a black man who takes a stand, carries the show.

“Elf,” based on a 2003 film comedy that starred Will Ferrell as Buddy, is about reconnecting with family and believing in Christmas. Morrow plays Gus, the store manager at Macy's, where Buddy finds a job.

“It's a small role,” Morrow said recently by phone from Owensboro, Ky., where the show was in tech rehearsals. His resonant, deep-bass voice sounded upbeat and alert. “But this is all about needing to do a holiday show.”

Morrow's father, Napoleon Morrow, died last December. This year, he said, he needed to do something uplifting to get through the holidays without his dad. “Elf,” with its limited holiday-season run, looked perfect. The tour, which began last week in Raleigh, N.C., runs through Jan. 5.

“And it's nice not to have the weight of the show on my shoulders,” he said. “Will Blum is just great in the role of Buddy, and it's nice to sit back and watch. Audiences will love him.”

The story line is fairly simple. As a toddler, Buddy crawled into Santa's sack and was accidentally taken to the North Pole. He grew up happy there, though he was much taller than the other elves. But one day Buddy learns he's human. Santa sends him back to New York City and to his father, Walter Hobbs, an unhappy publisher of children's books.

Walter, a nonbeliever, rejects Buddy, who goes to work at Macy's as a Christmas decorator. Buddy, meanwhile, begins a romance with Jovie. It will take crises with Walter, Jovie and even Santa for Buddy to prove what he has to give his original hometown.

Music and lyrics are by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (“The Wedding Singer”), and the script is by Thomas Meehan (“Annie,” “The Producers,” “Hairspray”) and Bob Martin (“The Drowsy Chaperone”).

Morrow said he's glad for the lighter fare after acting in several heavy television dramas over the past year. He's had guest spots on “The Good Wife,” “Law and Order,” “Elementary,” “Person of Interest” (a recurring role) and “Hostages.”

Onstage, he appeared in two August Wilson dramas at Portland (Ore.) Center Stage and in two racially themed plays, Mark St. Germain's “The Best of Enemies” and David Mamet's “Race,” at the Florida Studio Theatre.

He even played Javert, the heavy in “Les Misérables,” last summer at the Music Theater of Wichita. He said Timothy Shew, who played the lead in “Les Miz” at the Playhouse this fall, is an old friend. The two appeared in “The Scarlet Pimpernel” together on Broadway.

“I've been guiding my career more toward television and straight plays (rather than musicals), keeping my acting chops in tune and letting myself grow,” he said.

But right now Morrow just wants to have fun. While in Omaha, he'll reconnect with a few cousins, high school friends, teachers and mentors who helped him find success as an actor. They include Jim Eisenhardt, who directed him in Omaha Public Schools summer musicals; piano teacher and church choir director Claudette Valentine; and actor Al DiMauro.

“Omaha's my hometown,” Morrow said. “It's always nice to come back and see Jim and Al, and it's great to return in a holiday show. Omaha was a great place to grow up.”

Morrow also hopes to give back to the theater community that once nurtured him. Wednesday afternoon, he will lead a master class in audition techniques for about 60 high school students from Millard South, Gross, Benson, Burke and other metro-area schools.

Contact the writer: Bob Fischbach

bob.fischbach@owh.com    |   402-444-1269

Bob reviews movies and local theater productions and writes stories about those topics, as well.

Read more stories by Bob

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