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A CurtainUp Review
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
By Julia Furay
The arrival of Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas! on Broadway is, of course, just dripping with irony. It's a production sponsored by Target, for goodness sakes, and the creators have supersized Dr. Seuss's story into a Broadway production with big new numbers, power ballads, dancing, and an unfailingly cheerful cast. For a story all about discovering the simple joys of Christmas, this new version of the Grinch sure does come with a lot of trappings and padding and shiny new extras, doesn't it?
That's not to say it's a bad show. The story of the Grinch who sneaks down to Whoville to stop Christmas from coming has many of the charms it always did. There are the two famous, unforgettable songs by Albert Hague and Dr. Seuss, "Welcome Christmas" and "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." There are those brilliant, rhythmic rhymes and phrasings ("he puzzled and puzzed ‘till his puzzler was sore" is a favorite of mine). And there's the story, a wacky, touching Scrooge story for kids of all ages.
The Broadway incarnation has its own strengths, too so, like it or not, this Grinch is a pretty decent production. The cast is great, and the sets and costumes are wonderfully and inventively Seuss-esque. At only 70 minutes, it smartly doesn't overstay its welcome. Most importantly, director Matt August has imbued it all with a merry, goodhearted energy that miraculously keeps the production from becoming too cloying.
The cast is highlighted by Patrick Paige as the green Grinch. Paige is never as nasty as the gleefully evil, devilish cartoon version, but he is is charismatic and very funny. He delivershis solo production number," One of a Kind", with relish.
The narrator's role is a little different from the TV incarnation. Instead of Boris Karloff's expressive bass, we have John Cullum as Old Max, the Grinch's reindeer/dog, telling us the story many years later (Rusty Ross is a perkier younger Max). Cullum, always a zestful performer, doesn't disappoint here. It's great to see him having showbizzy fun with "You're a Mean One" and as narrator he gets most of the juiciest, cleverest rhymes. The Whos are uniformly cheerful and golden-voiced, and feature a set of hardworking kids (especially Cindy Lou Who, performed by Nicole Bocchi in the performance I attended) and some equally spirited, energetic adults.
The costumes (by Robert Morgan) and scenery (by John Lee Beatty), coming in all sorts of zany Who shapes, are creative, attractive and right out of Seuss — , except they're so aggressively red and pink that they remind us of Target ads more than they do of Whoville. It's a little embarrassing, actually. The other major disappointment is that the new songs, by Timothy Mason and Mel Marvin, are all pretty bland. Consequently, this newv Seuss is never quite on a par with the original television version with which the adults in the audience grew up.
Grinch is at its theatrical best when it involves and interacts with the kids in the audience:, as when they're encouraged to sing along to "You're a Mean One", during the explosion of confetti from the ceiling at opportune moments, and when the cast moves out into the audience to sing "Welcome Christmas." All this had some kids around me literally twirling in the aisles with delight at the end of the performance so I guess to complain about corporate sponsorship when the kids around me were dancing with excitement and Christmas anticipation would seem very Grinchlike indeed.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide