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'Beer and pizza' Santa Claus ready to entertain crowds at 'Elf the Musical'
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"Elf the Musical" opens Saturday in Amarillo.
Photo by Joan Marcus

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

For years, actor Ken Clement didn't greet Christmas with joy. Then, he was asked to don a familiar red suit.

And now, Clement is on his fourth tour as Santa Claus in the touring production of Elf the Musical, which alights in Amarillo for a two-day run at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Amarillo Civic Center Auditorium, 401 S. Buchanan St. Tickets for Civic Amarillo's Broadway Spotlight Series season-opener are $26 to $66, plus fees.

"My father died near this holiday," Clement said Monday on break from a run-through of the show before the tour opens in Ruidoso, N.M. "So it's always taken an effort (to feel the Christmas spirit). But this show makes it a whole lot easier to get into Christmas.

"It's suddenly not about the hassle and the buying of presents and money, money, money," Clement said. "It's more about carrying around love in your heart. If we could be like that 365 days a year, how great would that be?"

An adaptation of the 2003 film starring Will Ferrell, the musical, by Matthew Sklar (The Wedding Singer) and Chad Beguelin (Aladdin), debuted on Broadway in 2010 and was revived in 2012, in addition to touring every holiday season since.

"You can't extend a Christmas show until Easter," Clement said, laughing. "We play a little over two months — squeeze in a little after Halloween and go to New Year's."

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Santa has a larger role in the stage adaptation, Clement said, explaining that his character encompasses both Santa (played by Ed Asner in the film) and Papa Elf (played by Bob Newhart).

"He's the father figure of the North Pole and the narrator," Clement said.

But he's not a traditional Kris Kringle.

"I'm giving it my own twist," the actor said. "I think of it more as a beer and pizza Santa Claus. For 364 days a year, he wears a Lions shirt, and you're seeing him on the one day a year he wears his business suit.

"He's sarcastic, but a little warm and cuddly," he continued. "I'm somewhere between the narrator and a vaudeville warm-up comic."

The mix works for the veteran actor, who had his first professional credit more than 30 years ago.

"It's so cute. I love this show," he said. "It makes it easy to say yes and come back to do it because I really do love the show.

"It's everything the movie was ... all the dry, witty sarcasm, plus a genuine appreciation and love of Christmas," Clement said. "It does make you laugh, but at the same time, it's kind of warm and fuzzy. It's Christmas and a beautiful way of getting into what this (season) should be."






Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and at on Facebook.