“Grinch” musical gets early start on Christmas

Posted On November 14, 2006

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“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” has landed on Broadway for a limited engagement to capture any tourist dollars not snagged by the Radio City Christmas show.

Based on a production created by Jack O’Brien that was seen at San Diego’s Old Globe, the show, while undeniably a calculated, merchandise selling affair, it is being presented by Target, should well please the kiddies while proving reasonably diverting to their adult chaperones. And it’s certainly head and shoulders above the misbegotten 2000 film adaptation starring Jim Carrey.

Guaranteed not to overly tax moppet attention spans with its brief, 75-minute running time, at a $110 top ticket price, no less, the show is reasonably faithful to the storybook original, though lacking the charm of the classic 1966 cartoon. Indeed, John Lee Beatty’s sets and Robert Morgan’s costumes deliver fine approximations of Dr. Seuss’ visual style, even if the color scheme bears an uncomfortable similarity to Target’s trademark graphics.

Timothy Mason and Mel Marvin’s score, the former also provided the book, is pleasantly agreeable but predictably forgettable. Of the new songs, only “One of a Kind,” delivered by the boastful Grinch, displays the necessary Broadway wit and tunefulness. Fortunately, the show includes the two classic songs from the animated version, “Welcome Christmas” and “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” with the latter reprised for a brief audience sing along.

That’s not the limit of the audience participation, as more than a few of the tykes in attendance made their presence known at the reviewed performance. Indeed, at one point, Patrick Page, playing the Grinch, amusingly improvised to proclaim how much he hated “that little kid that was screaming.”

The simple tale, about the efforts of the green, villainous titular character to rob the residents of Whoville of their holiday, is rendered well enough, with narration provided by Old Max (Broadway veteran John Cullum), the elderly version of the Grinch’s canine sidekick (Rusty Ross). And, as ever, Theodore Geisel’s doggerel registers with a wonderful charm.

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