Chad Reviews "Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical"
In May of 1955, Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel published a poem in Redbook magazine entitled “The Hoobub and the Grinch” introducing a character that would eventually take the world of children’s literature and eventually popular culture by storm. Two years later, the Grinch would return as the titular character about a grouchy hermit that despises the Christmas season so much that he sets out on a plot to ruin it for everybody else by laying siege to the town of Whoville which lies peacefully to the south of Mount Crumpit where he lives, willing to do whatever it takes to “stop Christmas from coming!” It quickly became a worldwide phenomenon, getting an animated television special starring Boris Karloff in 1966 that is an annual tradition, as well as a live action adaptation in 2000 starring the ever manic Jim Carrey as the grumpy green menace, with plans of a 3D animated feature set for next year featuring the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch. It then seemed inevitable that a stage production would transpire since Seuss’ work lends itself so well to musical interpretation. A tour of the Broadway adaptation has crossed the country every year since 2010, and it finds its way to Dallas at the Winspear Opera House through December 17th.
The story is mostly as most would remember it, finding the Grinch (Philip Bryan) Hell-bent on destroying Christmas for the Whos of Whoville, mainly because he simply can’t stand the noise except that the story here is told from the perspective of The Grinch’s faithful dog Max, now in his golden years and on his way out of town as he has decided to move on (Bob Lauder as the elder, Andreas Wyder as the younger). After his chance encounter with Cindy-Lou Who, the Grinch’s perspective begins to shift and he begins to realize that Christmas means “just a little bit more”.
This production left me in a very precarious predicament since I’ve absolutely loved the source material since I was in grade school, falling even deeper in love with it after my first viewing of the animated holiday special. I enjoyed the 2000 film adaptation, but it lacked a lot of the simplistic charm that made the original vision so endearing. I believe we have a similar situation here with things like the fact that the reason for Max’s “retirement” is never really explained, other than the fact that he’s simply leaving. What exactly does a dog “retire” from anyway?
The numbers featuring the Whos singing become extremely grating due to the high pitched squeaky voices and unusually placed “lower east side” accents, which is something I’ve come to call the “Annie Effect.” (I had no idea that Whoville was a wormhole to the boroughs of New York City.) There was nowhere near enough “Grinch” in this production for me, as it was impossible not to enjoy Philip Bryan’s take on the character…coming off as a mash-up of Tim Curry’s performance of Pennywise in the original “IT” and Mark Hamill’s interpretation of “The Joker” from “Batman: The Animated Series”. Delilah Rose Pellow is simply adorable as Cindy-Lou Who, but the “Annie Effect” does its damage on her performance, where the over the top accent makes her almost incomprehensible. The set design is right out of the pages of the book and the numbers are full of energy and motion, with plenty to keep the kids engaged, there’s just not enough there to keep the adults invested, especially without an intermission. I wanted to love this production, I truly did, but it just didn’t click with me the way I hoped it would.