TUPELO The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear – and that’s exactly what the cast of Pied Piper Players’ latest production will be doing this weekend.

The 2003 film “Elf” starring Will Ferrell has become a holiday staple for kids and families in the past 15 years, and the local childrens’ theater group will present a musical version of the story for audiences beginning this weekend.

“Elf Jr. – The Musical” opens Friday at Church Street School auditorium in Tupelo, and director Jane Miller and her cast of nearly 40 kindergarten through seventh-grade students from across the region are ready for the spotlight.

“The show isn’t really written for students this young; it’s written more for middle school students, but they have really stepped it up and done a good job,” Miller said of her cast. “I’m really proud of them. I’ve been very surprised at how well they’ve done with it. But they never cease to amaze me.”

The story follows Buddy, an elf in Santa’s workshop at the North Pole, who discovers he’s actually a human and sets out to New York City to find his father at Christmas.

Miller said despite working on rehearsals for the past five weeks, well before Halloween, the show has put her and her cast in the holiday spirit.

“We’ve had so much fun with this,” she said. “These kids shine and they’ve all come to practice and worked so hard. As it’s gotten closer and we’ve started decorating with the trees and the packages, they’ve gotten so excited.

The performances are some of the first holiday events in Northeast Mississippi, and Miller said she and the Pied Piper organization enjoy getting to get the holidays started.

“We really help kick off what is Tupelo’s holiday season and I like being that for the community and the kids, because that’s what Christmas is about for me. This is one of the best ways to start.”

“We’ve got kids from Mooreville and Tupelo and Fulton and all around Northeast Mississippi and it’s important to come out and support these children,” Miller said. “This takes all the things that these parents pay money for – piano and voice and dance – and it puts it together in a show. This let’s them showcase the talents that they’ve been practicing for.”

Playing the role of Buddy is 11-year-old Nate Beaty of Fulton in his first starring role, however he’s no stranger to theater.

He’s performed in “Willy Wonka,” “The Aristocats,” “101 Dalmatians” and “Schoolhouse Rock,” just to name a few – but he lit up when he found out he’d be leading the cast of “Elf Jr.”

“I was really excited,” Beaty said. “It’s going to be a really good show. (Audiences) are going to enjoy it. I love how funny Buddy is. I’m trying to be like him. It’s hard to memorize so much, but I think I can do it.”

Miller echoed Beaty’s excitement for audiences to see the final product.

“They want to do a good show, that’s what it’s all about to them,” she said of the cast. “They have worked so hard, so incredibly hard for the people that are going to come see them.”

Showtimes are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday.

Tickets are $7 and $5 for students. For more information, follow Pied Piper Players on Facebook.

derek.russell@journalinc.com Twitter: @wderekrussell

Features, arts and entertainment reporter for Daily Journal.

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