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A CurtainUp Review
How the Grinch Stole Christmas

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
A scene from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. (Photo: Paul Kolnik)
The Grinch is back —and yes, so is Patrick Page, this time at the St. James Theater, 246 West 44th Street, 212/239-6200. New cast members: Ed Dixon, Old Max; Rusty Ross,Young Max; Darin DePaul, Grandpa Seth Who; Aaron Galligan-Stierle, Pa Who; Tari Kelly, Mama Who; Caroline London, Cindy Lou Wh; Jan Neuberger, Grandma Who and Athena Ripka, Cindy Lou Who. Rusty Ross, Jan Neuberger, Janet Dickinson, Amy Griffin, Kurt Kelly, Josephine Rose Roberts, Pearl SunFrom 11/01/07; opening 11/09/07; closing 1/06/08.

Postscript: As it turns out economics grinched the Grinch and when the Stagehands union struck on November 10th, the Grinch's 11am performance was the first one to be cancelled. However, since the show had an independent contract, and is even more dependent than others on the holiday season, it has been exempted (by court order) and, after a week of being unable to open, this show begins its run Friday November 23 at 11am. Other performances are at 2, 5 and 8pm

For details about the show and the songs see our review of last year's show below. —e.s.
You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch,
You have termites in your smile,
You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Grinch,
Given a choice between the two of you I'd take the. . . seasick crocodile!

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.

Book and lyrics by Timothy Mason, based on Theodore Geisel's book
Music by Mel Marvin
Director: Matt August
Choreography (recreated from Old Globe production): Bob Richard.
Cast: Patrick Page as Grinch, John Cullum as Old Max and Rusty Ross as Young Max; also Caitlin Belcik as Annie Who, Nicole Bocchi as Cindy-Lou Who, Aaron Conley as Boo Who, James Du Chateau as Danny Who, Eamon Foley as Danny Who, Kaitlin Hopkins as Mama Who, Libby Jacobson as Betty Who, Caroline London as Cindy-Lou Who, Michael McCormick as Grandpa Who, Malcolm Morano as Boo Who, Jan Neuberger as Grandma Who, Heather Tepe as Annie Who, Price Waldman as Papa Who and Brynn Williams as Betty Who.
Little Who Ensemble: Jahaan Amin, Kevin Csolak, Antonio D'Amato, Danielle Freid, Brianna Gentilella, Sky Jarrett, Jess Le Protto, Daniel Manche, Kate Micha, Jillian Mueller, Nikki Rose, Molly Ryan, Rafael Luis Tillis (swing), Corwin Tuggles, Kelley Rock Wiese and Lawson Young (swing)
Adult Ensemble: Janet Dickinson, Andre Garner, Amy Griffin (swing), Kurt Kelly (swing), Josie Roberts, William Ryall, Jeff Skowron and Pearl Sun.
Sets: John Lee Beatty
Costumes: Robert Morgan
Lights: Pat Collins
Sound: Acme Sound Partners
Special Effects: Gregory Meeh
Orchestrations: Michael Starobin
Musical Direction and Vocal Arrangements: Joshua Rosenblum
Puppetry: Michael Curry.
Running Time: 80 minutes without intermission.
Hilton Theatre,213 West 42nd Street (212) 307-4100,
From October 25, 2006 to January 7, 2006; opening November 8, 2006.
Tickets: $25-$99
Okay for ages 3 and up.
Reviewed by Julia Furay based on July 12th performance

Musical Numbers

* Music by Albert Hague and lyrics by Dr. Seuss
  • Who Likes Christmas?/Citizens of Whoville
  • I Hate Christmas Eve/The Grinch, Young Max, JP Who, Mama Who,Grandma Who, Grandpa Seth Who/ Cindy Lou Who, Betty Who, Annie, Danny, Boo Who
  • WhatchamaWho/The Grinch, Little Whos
  • Welcome, Christmas */Citizens of Whoville
  • I Hate Christmas Eve (Reprise)/The Grinch
  • Once in a Year/JP Who, Mama Who, Grandma Who, Grandpa Seth Who, Citizens of Whoville, Little Whos
  • One of a Kind/The Grinch
  • Now's the Time/JP Who, Mama Who, Grandma Who, Grandpa Seth Who
  • You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch */Old Max, Young Max, The Grinch
  • Santa for a Day/Cindy Lou Who, The Grinch
  • You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch * (Reprise)/Old Max
  • Who Likes Christmas? (Reprise)/Citizens of Whoville
  • One of a Kind (Reprise)/Young Max, The Grinch, Cindy Lou Who
  • Welcome, Christmas (Reprise) */Citizens of Whoville
  • Finale/The Grinch, Cindy Lou Who, Whos Everywhere
  • Who Likes Christmas?/Whos Everywhere, The Grinch
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