"Playing Joe Hardy in Damn Yankees has a place in my heart," he confides. "Playing opposite Jerry Lewis as Mr. Applegate, I had a wonderful year."
So it was his affection for Lewis, as well as all his Nashville pals, that prompted Elder to come to town this past summer to see The Nutty Professor, the new musical directed by the so-called "king of comedy" that had its world premiere at TPAC's James K. Polk Theatre in August. "I thought the show was great and mounting it here was a great opportunity for Nashville," he says. "I hope it gets the chance to play Broadway because that's where it belongs."
Insofar as White Christmas is concerned, Elder has been involved in the show since 2008 during its first season of performances and he's done some version of the musical, which features a sterling score by Irving Berlin and is based on the much-loved classic holiday film, on an annual basis ever since.
In Detroit a few years back, Elder co-starred with James Clow (with whom he co-stars in this year's national tour) and both men have been involved in various incarnations of the show over the years.
"But what does it mean to us now?" Elder asks, somewhat rhetorically. "It's challenging in a way, as little things get changed, we ask ourselves what does the show and its story mean to us now? I did the first national tour in 2009 and it was the same Walter Bobbie/Randy Skinner show. Then in 2010, I did it for Mark Robin at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. It featured new choreography and new staging as he was trying to bring something new to the material."
Through the years-and through all the changes that occur naturally in the lifetime of a musical theater favorite-it's become apparent to Elder that "it's nice to know the story, the book, still holds even with new choreography."
And somehow the appeal of White Christmas and its tuneful score that features a bounty of Berlin's best-loved songs-in addition to the title tune, there's "Sisters," "Happy Holidays" and the iconic "Blue Skies"-remains constant, with audiences all over the country reveling in the show's charm and sense of familiarity.
"For me personally there is definitely familiarity," Elder says. "And for those people who love the movie, who want to relive that experience, the feeling that the movie gives them-they want to go back to a show that made them feel all warm and fuzzy."
"We have the power to make life feel like a Norman Rockwell painting," he suggests. "I live every day of my life like that. I still feel that basic sense of love and family, all of what you think life can be really can happen. White Christmas brings us back to that simplicity of two people loving each other and everyone jumping on board with that notion, and not a single negative thing happens. I want to believe in happy endings."