THIRD VERSION’S A CHARM
by Chad Menville
published November 13, 2007
Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical
now playing on Broadway at St. James Theatre
through January 6
If you have pre-teen kids – and if the current Broadway stagehands strike is settled in time – then treat the family to the seasonal engagement of Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical. Patrick Page returns in the title role, commanding the stage in that signature furry green getup. Although some of the music numbers are (to put it kindly) forgettable, Page makes up for it in spades with his impressive voice, authority and flair. Interestingly, the Grinch’s dog, Max, is played by not one but two actors, in two different stages of his canine life. Young Max is buoyant, yet does not speak, while Old Max takes on the duties of narration. His tone is solemn; he speaks in past tense (one can only guess where he might have mastered language in the interim). Witnessing both Maxes on stage concurrently is as bizarre as it is entertaining.
Not surprisingly, the plot advances in an A-B rhyme scheme as our lovable, wrathful curmudgeon makes it his mission to stop Christmas. You see, it seems the noise, gluttony and materialism of the people of Whoville are contrary to The Grinch’s personal aesthetic. (Come to think of it, The Grinch would make a perfect poster boy for this year’s Buy Nothing Day.) Just as The Grinch hatches his plan of total world domination – thereby stopping Christmas from arriving – he is forced to reevaluate his motives when he bumps into Cindy-Lou Who, who by way of her sheer innocence, is capable of thawing even the iciest of hearts.
The whimsical look and John Lee Beatty's set design stays true to Dr. Seuss’ book. The overall effect is jubilant and playful – even down to the Whos’ hairdos (by Thomas Augustine). It’s a cross between the munchkins from The Wizard of Oz and the lead singer from A Flock of Seagulls. At just over 80 minutes, there is no room in this show for filler. Far more engaging than both the 1966 Chuck Jones-directed animated special and especially the 2000 Ron Howard-directed feature with Jim Carrey, director Matt August ensures that the present incarnation on stage holds something for audiences of all ages. Maybe it could even thaw the icy hearts of those Broadway producers.
chadmenville @ stageandcinema.com