COURTESY AMY BOYLE PHOTOGRAPHYEric Williams plays the title character in the stage musical version of “Elf.”

Eric Williams’ ‘Elf’ portrait has humor, heart

The Bay Area holiday musical menu gets a dose of the Buddy system as “Elf” takes the stage at the Curran Theatre.

The role was a huge boost to Will Ferrell’s post-“Saturday Night Live” film career in 2003. The incoming tour of the 2010 musical adaptation with a score by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (“The Wedding Singer”) features newcomer Eric Williams as Buddy, the human youth raised by Santa’s helpers.

Schooled in New York, with some well-received indie plays under his belt, Williams feels the tour marks a new career level for him. “It’s definitely one of the most exciting things I’ve been a part of so far.”

He discovered “Elf” by trolling music files on YouTube. “I heard a song from the show, loved it and decided I wanted to play the part.” Ducking conventional audition wisdom, he auditioned with that song and got the part.

Tall and lean – his resume notes 6 foot, 2 inches and 165 pounds – Williams says “wiry” is a good descriptor for his approach to the role. “It’s a really physical role. There’s big, Broadway-style numbers, a lot of dancing and I get to sing a ton of great music.” As the through-line of the show, Williams is seldom offstage. “When I first got the script and started flipping through the pages I had these conflicting feelings of excitement and nervousness because I realized Buddy is there practically the whole time. I do have a couple of breaks in Act 2. but I’m definitely getting in my cardio workout!”

Williams doesn’t really have a favorite holiday musical – other than the one he’s in, of course ) but he does have a fond memory of his introduction to the genre.

“I’m from St. Louis and the Muny is a big theater there that does these really incredible productions. I’ll always remember seeing ‘White Christmas’ there both because I loved the show and because they had snow falling on an outdoor stage in 90-degree heat in the middle of summer. There was something really magical about that.”

He feels that the magical and seemingly indelible qualities of “Elf” have made the leap from screen to stage. “The movie really has become a modern classic. People quote it to me all the time.”

He says the stage version has the film’s aura of “silly fun” but adds, “It’s full of the holiday spirit really ends up touching you. I was able to watch the show once and it really was more of an emotional experience than I had anticipated.”

IF YOU GO

Elf

Where: Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St., S.F.

When: Opens Friday, 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Dec. 22-24, Dec. 26-27; closes Dec. 28

Tickets: $45 to $160

Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com

artsElfEric WilliamsWill Ferrell

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