The Musical’ were excited to try on their costumes for the first time. CONTRIBUTED

For those seeking cuteness overload, seeing kiddos dressed as mini elves should do the trick. Students of Key Largo School Drama Club are preparing to perform “Elf Jr.: The Musical,” starting Friday, Dec. 1 at the Coral Shores High School Performing Arts Center.

“This. Is. Too. Cute,” said director Michele Zofchak, showing us her phone. It displayed a photo of children in Santa hats and red tights posed in front of a giant pile of presents. (We checked: Zofchak was making the “Awww” face.)

The KLS ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) teacher is used to this scenario. She has been directing plays in the Keys for 20 years. 

“Theater brings out something in kids that they need,” she said. “It gives them a place to feel safe and discover who they really are. Imagine being 8 years old and looking at an audience of 500. It builds confidence.”

Zofchak was thrilled that local photographer Javier Exposito, who was in a play for her when he was 3 years old, has come full circle as a volunteer. That night, he helped install the large backdrops as his wife, Amanda, watched on the side, holding their baby son.

“It’s great to work with students who would never have been exposed to music and dance if not for this,” said “Elf Jr.” choreographer and KLS music and movement teacher Kelly Shaw. She noted that other Monroe County schools don’t have drama programs. Key Largo School Drama Club accepts Plantation Key School and charter school students as well as homeschoolers.

“We’re trying to develop a performing arts magnet school in Monroe County,” Shaw said.

Standing, from left: James Blanco as ‘Buddy the Elf’ and Kaylie Sabater as ‘Jovie’ play love interests. On the floor, from left: Colette Blanche and Rosalyn Llanes are cute as a dickens while posing as elves. CHARLOTTE TWINE/Keys Weekly

“Elf Jr.: The Musical” is based on the 2003 Christmas classic movie “Elf,” starring Will Ferrell. He plays an elf named Buddy who, due to his tall size and clumsiness at making toys, realizes that he is human. He goes to New York City to find his birth father — then hilarity and a small romance ensue.

Tall 13-year-old James Blanco is perfectly cast as Buddy and is in every scene of the production.

“He’s done a fantastic job,” Zofchak said proudly. “He’s become a leader.”

“It’s really fun,” Blanco said enthusiastically about acting in plays. “You get to meet new people every time you do it. And I’m looking forward to all the people coming to see us. My grandparents are coming in from Central Florida.”

Kaylie Sabater, also age 13, plays Buddy’s love interest, Jovie. 

“I like the fun interactions with the characters. But then, it gets awkward with acting the romance stuff,” she said, laughing. “And you have to remember it’s just a play.”

A Nov. 28 rehearsal ended, of course, in a Rockettes-style kickline with all the cast members. Then some of the children tried on elf costumes and posed for their parents. The moms gathered in front of the stage, excitedly taking pictures.

“Cute!” they all exclaimed while they snapped photos with their phones.

“Elf Jr.: The Musical” will be presented at Coral Shores High School Performing Arts Center in Tavernier on Fridays and Saturdays, Dec. 1, 2, 8 and 9 at 7 p.m.; and Sundays, Dec. 3 and 10, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 in advance and $10 at the door. For an hour and a half before every performance, families can take photos with Santa in the lobby, for between $10 to $20 a session. 

Call 305-453-1255 ext. 57318 for more information.

Charlotte Twine fled her New York City corporate publishing life and happily moved to the Keys six years ago. She has written for Travel + Leisure, Allure, and Offshore magazines;; and the Florida Keys Free Press. She loves her two elderly Pomeranians, writing stories that uplift and inspire, making children laugh, the color pink, tattoos, Johnny Cash, and her husband. Though not necessarily in that order.