Fantastical creatures from New York City-based Big League Productions, Inc.’s critically acclaimed national tour of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: The Musical, based on the beloved 1957 children’s book written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss (nee Theodor Seuss Geisel, 1904-91), will once again delight children of all ages when the 1994 Minneapolis, 1998 San Diego, and 2006 Broadway musical returns to the Durham Performing Arts Center for 10 exuberant performances, starting at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 29th, and running through 5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4th. This musical spectacular, which runs approximately 83 minutes, with no intermission, will bring the monster of Mount Crumpit — the bitter, green, irascible Grinch — and his unsuspecting victims — the genial, carefree Christmas-celebrating Whos of Whoville — to full, glorious life onstage.
Originally commissioned and produced by the Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis, MN, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: The Musical premiered in November 1994 and was repeated in 1995 and 1998. The show features music by Mel Marvin and a book and lyrics by Timothy Mason and incorporates two of the iconic songs from the 1966 animated TV special — “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas” — which feature music by Albert Hague and lyrics by Dr. Seuss.
After lengthy negotiations, Jack O’Brien, the artistic director of the Old Globe Theatre of San Diego, CA, obtained permission from Dr. Seuss’ widow (who lived in nearby La Jolla) to perform the show, starting in 1998. Then the Old Globe Theatre took their production to Broadway for limited runs during Christmastime 2006-07 and 2007-08. Several national tours followed, starting at Christmastime 2008.
The current tour is based on the show’s Old Globe Theatre and Broadway productions, originally conceived and supervised Jack O’Brien and directed on Broadway by Matt August, with original choreography by John DeLuca and co-choreography by Bob Richard. The Broadway/tour creative team also includes set designer John Lee Beatty, lighting designer Pat Collins, costume designer Robert Morgan, sound designer Ed Chapman, and associate lighting designer Charlie Morrison.
The 2016 tour stars Philip Bryan as the grouchy old Grinch; Bob Lauder as the show’s geriatric canine narrator Old Max; and Andreas Wyder as Young Max, the pup that Old Max was long ago when the story’s events took place. Julia Rose DiPiazza and Danielle Guilbot alternate as Cindy-Lou Who, and Rayna Farr and Bella Fraker alternate as Annie Who.
“‘Old Max’ is not in the original story,” says Bob Lauder, who has played the part on tour since 2010. He adds, “In the book, there’s just The Grinch and Max the dog. I play Max the dog 80 dog years later [when Max is on the verge of crossing over the Rainbow Bridge]…. The whole show is Max’s memories of what happened that Christmas long ago, when Max was a puppy….
“I love this show so much,” confesses the 59-year-old Fullerton, CA native, who graduated from Anaheim High School in 1975 and initially studied to be an opera singer at California State University, Long Beach, and the Music Academy of the West in Montecito, CA. Bob Lauder says, “This is not just a kiddy show. This show is for all ages.” He adds that for kids it’s like watching a Warner Bros. cartoon come-to-life; but for adults, there are many deeper layers of meaning.
The tour also stars Vincent DiPeri as Papa Who, Melissa Weisbach as Mama Who, Brian Rooney as Grandpa Who, and Barbara Bayes as Grandma Who. The Citizens of Whoville include Jarred Bedgood, Caleb Funk, Carl Hulden, Chelsea Vann, and Jennifer Wilcove; and the Who Kids include Elizabeth Baumgartner, Hanna-Lyn Baxter, Dallyn Brunck, Taylor Drumwright, Hannah Grace Forsley, Jonathan Nadolny, Trickster Rogers, Staci Stout, and Megan Yates.
After graduating from the Music Academy of the West in 1990, operatic baritone Bob Lauder had an epiphany. “I love opera,” he says, “but I found that I could make a lot more money in musical theater.” So, he and his wife, actress Patti Diamond, whom he met in 1989 when they played Laurey and Curly in a production of Oklahoma!, worked as vocalists on cruise ships from 1990 until 1996. They subsequently played husband and wife — ill-fated 1st Class Passenger John B. Thayer and his wife, Marian, who safely boarded lifeboat 4 — onstage in the First National Tour of Titanic from 1998 to 2000.
From 2000 to 2006, Bob Lauder worked as a Real Bearded Santa Claus in a Las Vegas show entitled Believe in the Magic. “I was Santa Claus, and I had 10 showgirl elves,” he chuckles. “I loved that show.”
In 2010, Lauder auditioned for the role of Old Max via a YouTube video. He says the role in the stage musical was originally written for John Cullum, but basso profundo Thurl Ravenscroft first sang the show’s signature song, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” in the 1966 CBS animated television special.
Bob Lauder argued that he could do that song in the original key that Ravenscroft did it. He got the role, and has been delighting audiences with his performance as Old Max ever since.
“People my age grew up with the 1957 book and the 1966 cartoon,” says Lauder. “But Christmas is not just about Christmas presents.”
He adds, “[How the Grinch Stole Christmas] is a moral story. The Grinch thinks he’s different from the Whos. He hears their noise, as their kids sing and bang on drums….
“After he steals all their Christmas presents,” Lauder says, “he expects the Whos to be crying and screaming and moaning. But, instead, he hears them singing Christmas carols. It’s an epiphany for him….
“Everything [in this show] looks like it was lifted directly out of the book and put on stage — in three dimensions,” says Bob Lauder. He adds, “The show is nothing like the  Jim Carrey movie. It’s most closely related to the cartoon version of [How the Grinch Stole Christmas!] and the book, of course.”
“[Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: The Musical] is fun, it’s quick, and it’s not scary for small children,” claims Bob Lauder. He adds, “It’s so much fun to walk out the stage door [after a performance] and see kids grinning from ear to ear and their parents — and, sometimes, their grandparents — grinning from ear to ear.”
NOTE: There will be a special Sensory-Friendly Performance of the show at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3rd. On its website, DPAC writes, “This sensory-friendly performance will be presented in a welcoming and supportive environment for children and adults on the autism spectrum and their families. Slight adjustments will be made to the production, including fewer loud noises and flashing lights that may be challenging for some audience members….” For complete details, click here.
SECOND OPINION: Nov. 28th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/news/score-one-for-the-grinch-composer-reflects-on-dr-seuss/article_ac59bd16-b56a-11e6-9bfa-a7daef18a11d.html (Note: You must subscribe to read this article); Nov. 25th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh interview with actor Andreas Wyder, conducted by Jeffrey Kare: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-TV-Andreas-Wyder-of-HOW-THE-GRINCH-STOLE-CHRISTMAS-National-Tour-20161125; Nov. 23rd Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Brian Howe: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/dr-seuss-how-the-grinch-stole-christmas-the-musical/Event?oid=5088754; Nov. 23rd Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Lori D. R. Wiggins: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/community/midtown-raleigh-news/article116629943.html; Nov. 23rd Burlington, NC Times-News preview by Logan A. White for “Teens & Twenties”: http://teensandtwenties.com/grinch-actor-channels-christmas-spirit/; and Nov. 21st Raleigh, NC WRAL.com preview by Kathy Hanrahan for “What’s on Tap”: http://www.wral.com/holiday-spirit-is-alive-in-grinch-actor/16238728/.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents Dr. Seuss’ HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS!: THE MUSICAL at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 29-Dec. 2; 11 a.m. Special Sensory Performance and 2, 5, and 8 p.m. Dec. 3; and 2 and 5 p.m. Dec. 4 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $30-$130. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), email@example.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/where-to-buy.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1550867.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
SHOW: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/the-grinch and https://www.facebook.com/events/1672876842964383/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQkmT8D3GIs.
DPAC NEWS RELEASES: https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/how-the-grinch-stole-christmas-returns-to-dpac and https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/special-sensory-friendly-production-how-the-grinch-stole-christmas-the-musical.
THE TOUR: http://www.grinchmusical.com/, http://www.bigleague.org/13_grinch.htm, https://www.facebook.com/grinchmusical/, https://twitter.com/grinchmusical, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Seuss’_How_the_Grinch_Stole_Christmas!_The_Musical#2010-2015:_North_American_National_Tours.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.
NOTE: PAC says there will be a Special Sensory Performance at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3rd, “for children and adults on the autism spectrum and their families.” Click here for details.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957 children’s book): http://www.randomhouse.com/book/43047/how-the-grinch-stole-christmas-by-dr-seuss/ (Random House) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_The_Grinch_Stole_Christmas (Wikipedia).
Dr. Seuss (nee Theodor Seuss Geisel, author, cartoonist, and lyricist, 1904-91): http://www.seussville.com/ (Seussville) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Seuss (Wikipedia).
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966 animated TV special): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Seuss%27_How_the_Grinch_Stole_Christmas!_(TV_special) (Wikipedia).
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: The Musical (1994 Minneapolis, 1998 San Diego, and 2006 Broadway musical): http://www.grinchmusical.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/dr-seuss-how-the-grinch-stole-christmas-438378 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Seuss’_How_the_Grinch_Stole_Christmas!_The_Musical (Wikipedia).
Mel Marvin (composer): http://gmtw.tisch.nyu.edu/object/MarvinM.html (Tisch School of the Arts at New York University bio) and http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=9663 (Internet Broadway Database).
Albert Hague (composer for 1966 animated TV special): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Hague (Wikipedia) and http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=11804 (Internet Broadway Database).
Timothy Mason (lyrics and book): http://americantheatrewing.org/biography/detail/timothy_mason (American Theatre Wing, Inc. bio) and http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=438381 (Internet Broadway Database).
Bob Lauder (Old Max): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/bob-lauder-jr-508999 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.facebook.com/blauder (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/santaboblv (Twitter page).
Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail email@example.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)