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There won’t be a Will Ferrell appearance in Circa ‘21 Dinner Playhouse’s production of “Elf The Musical.”

But you will hear many of the lines and scenes made famous by Ferrell in his portrayal of Buddy the Elf in the 2003 movie, now considered a Christmas season staple.

And you’ll hear them from a New York-based actor, who according to his castmates, was “born to play” the happy-go-lucky main character.

Luke Rose, who stars as Buddy in the Rock Island theater’s rendition of “Elf the Musical,” is well-versed in Buddy’s ultra-quotable lines such as, “Smiling's my favorite!” and “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”

More than once, the 24-year-old Michigan native has happily drenched his spaghetti in maple syrup. He also happens to be very tall, naturally smiley and “an optimist at heart.”

“I am very similar to Buddy,” Rose said. “I like to find the joy and the good in everything in my daily life.”

Brett Hitchcock, director of audience engagement at Circa ‘21, has noticed the similarity, too.

“He’s very ‘Elf’ off stage, too,” Hitchcock said. “He’s a playful guy who loves life and to make people laugh. What you see on stage is him.”

On stage, Rose hopes to stand out from the on-screen version of “Elf.” That’s why he’s opting not to watch the movie during the musical’s run. Performances are scheduled through Dec. 30.

“I’m not going to watch it, because I already have the Will Ferrell-isms, if you will, stuck in my head,” he said. “I’ve got those memorized.”

For other aspects of the show, such as the original songs, new scenes and dialogue, Rose is making it his own.

“I think that will help audiences to not be comparing my character to Will Ferrell the whole time,” he said.

It will also help that this is the area premiere of the show.

Circa ‘21 was one of the first dinner theaters in the country to gain rights to the show, which Hitchcock calls a big win for the Rock Island venue.

“One of the problems is that there are not a lot of new Christmas shows,” Hitchcock said. “You’re always looking for something people haven't seen before. This is something new and something that will attract a younger audience.”

The story follows Buddy, who grows up in a family of elves on the North Pole and, until he turns 30, is unaware that’s he actually a human. He goes on a journey to New York City to find his father, figure out how to use things like crosswalks and elevators and spread plenty of Christmas joy along the way.

After the movie’s success, the musical version ran on Broadway in 2010-2011 and in 2012-2013. It has also toured the country, including a Nov. 2016 stop at the Adler Theatre in Davenport.

Tickets have been selling well since the show opened on Nov. 8, Hitchcock said. Circa ‘21 has added three performances on Dec 14, 19 and 21.

For Rose, who has lived in New York City for more than two years, he’s guessing this won’t be the last time he plays Buddy.

“There will be probably be many more,” he said. “It’s such a fun character to play.”

Rose has had fun with the character behind the scenes, too. He filmed and released a five-part video blog titled “Becoming Buddy the Elf” on YouTube.

“I was in New York when I got my script,” he said. “I thought it was funny how much of the play was set in New York and here I am.”

The videos include Rose touring spots in New York City as well as his arrival in Rock Island, rehearsals, costume fittings and opening night of the show.

Rose says he isn't the only one who'd enjoy becoming Buddy — even just for a day. 

“Everyone would like to be like Buddy in their daily lives,” he said. “He just makes you smile.”


Amanda Hancock is a reporter covering food, arts and entertainment in the Quad-Cities (and beyond).