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Christmas spirit comes to the stage in "Elf, Jr."



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Zoe Lehneman plays Buddy the Elf in the Streetcar Kids and Youth Theatre (SKYT) production of "Elf, Jr." this weekend. (Photo by Erin Plummer) (click for larger version)
July 11, 2019
Streetcar Kids and Youth Theatre is kicking off the summer with Christmas in July as they bring "Elf, Jr." to the stage this weekend.

Streetcar youth company will perform the kid-friendly version of the famous musical Friday through Sunday at the First United Methodist Church of Gilford.

Co-director Raelynn Cottrell said they chose "Elf" to have some Christmas in July. Cottrell described herself as a "crazy Christmas person" said after the production of "Alice in Wonderland" last year she managed to convince co-director David Nelson into doing a Christmas show.

The show is one of the more challenging ones the company has done.

"It's a much more technical, difficult show than we'e ever done in the summer," Cottrell said. "These guys are awesome."

Nelson said the show involves a lot of set changes and set pieces to keep in order and change at the right time.

It was a little unique for everyone to be doing a Christmas show in the summer.

"It takes a lot of getting used to," Nelson said.

The 36 members of the cast range in age from four to 17-years-old, half of them are performing in their first Streetcar show and under a dozen are doing their first ever show.

Nelson said this production has been full of surprises. He said the kids he has worked with before continue to shine in this production and the kids new to this have been coming right out performing amazingly.

Nelson said he has watched the cast improve by leaps and bounds. After the dress rehearsal on Monday night, he said that performance was 200 times better than the previous day.

The cast of "Elf" had a float in two Fourth of July parades, in the Gilmanton parade they won the award for Most Original.

Zoe Lehneman of Gilford plays Buddy the Elf.

"(I like) just how energetic he is and how happy he is all the time," Lehneman said. "He's probably one of the most fun characters I've ever played because his emotions are so over the top."

The Gilford High School student is in her fourth show with Streetcar.

She said it was a little weird to do a Christmas show in July.

"I do like Christmas a lot, it's been a really fun experience even though it's hot in the elf suit," Lehneman said.

One of the performers taking the stage for the first time is nine-year-old Dani Ruiter of Gilmanton, who plays Elf #1 and a Macy's employee.

"I'm usually really shy and I watched the movie 'Elf' at least 10 times," Dani said.

She said being onstage can be terrifying, but it's also a lot of fun. She said she likes that when she's playing the part it feels good to know there are people in the audience watching her.

Dani said she has gotten a lot of help and has made at least five friends. She said she wants to be in another play.

SKYT will perform "Elf, Jr." at the First United Methodist Church of Gilford July 12, 13, and 14 at 7 p.m. and on Sunday, July 14 at 3 p.m. Tickets are available at the Streetcar website, /"www.streetcarcompany.com, and at the door.

Garnett Hill
Martin Lord Osman
Penny Pitou
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