The national tour of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, which takes up residence Dec. 3-8 at the Durham Performing Arts Center, promises to bring the beloved 1957 children’s book to full, glorious life onstage. This musical spectacular, which runs approximately 83 minutes, with no intermission, is sure to delight children of all ages.
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.
“I got involved with [Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical] through the Children’s Theatre Company, which is a very large repertory theater where they do plays and musicals for families,” recalls New York City composer Mel Marvin. “I’d done a lot of work in Minneapolis at the Guthrie [and other theaters].”
A Charleston, SC native, Marvin had also written one show with Timothy Mason, who had penned a bunch of shows for the Children’s Theatre Company. In 1993, Marvin recalls, the Minneapolis children’s theater acquired rights to How the Grinch Stole Christmas!.
“Because Timothy Mason knew Dr. Seuss — knew Ted Geisel [1904-91] — he was chosen to write the script,” says Mel Marvin. “I had just written a score with Tim, so I was chosen to write the score.”
He adds, “I wrote it for my daughter Kate, who was nine years old at the time. My daughter actually made the demo of ‘Santa for a Day’; and when we sent it to them, it created a stir.”
Instead of writing Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical in a commercial way, Marvin says, “I wrote it in a way that I thought my daughter and her friends would like, but it’s turned out to be commercially viable.”
In 1997, Jack O’Brien — the artistic director of the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, CA — came to see the show in Minneapolis; and inquired about the rights to perform Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical on the West Coast.
“The widow of Dr. Seuss lives in La Jolla, right outside of San Diego,” explains Mel Marvin. So, the Old Globe Theatre got permission to stage Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical in 1998 and every year since.
Mel Marvin claims, “Jack really brought the show to its height…. He brought in Broadway designers. The set and the costumes look exactly like [Ted Geisel’s] drawings in the book…. The Grinch is green, and the Whos [of Whoville] are all varilus shades of red and pink. Jack also used a lot of stagecraft, props, and special effects….
“Jack is an extremely generous director and a generous man, and his generosity is all over the place in this production,” adds Marvin.
In 2006, Mervin says, Dr. Seuss Enterprises decide to let Jack O’Brien and the Old Globe Theatre bring their production to Broadway. He notes, “They enlarged the production, and had new orchestrations made….” After a successful run during the 2006 Christmas season, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical returned to Broadway at Christmastime in 2007.
“After 2007,” Me Marvin says, “The show formed national companies and sent them on the road…. I think they are doing six cities this year.”
He adds, “The show looks and feels like the book; and, hopefully, the show sounds like the book. There are 12 songs in the show, and two of them are from the  animated version [of the book]…. People are familiar with those songs.”
Marvin confesses, “I tried to make this show a little like an old-fashioned Broadway musical. I tried to give the music the sound of the book, which has both warmth and coldness in it.”
He says, “The Grinch [played in this tour by Stefán Karl] is a really mean fellow; and we wanted to make him scary and angry and mean, so some of the score for the Grinch has a lot of edge to it. The score for the Whos tends to be very warm and sweet ….”
Marvin says, “Stefán Karl plays the Grinch. He’s Icelandic and an extraordinary guy. He’s been playing the Grinch for six years now…. He’s an incredible physical comedian, as well as a wonderful actor…. He’s [also] an incredibly hard worker.. I think that everybody will have a great time with him.”
He adds, “It’s a wonderful cast, too. I’m not so involved with the show anymore…. [But] it’s exciting to see this show, and it’s wonderfully moving in the end….
“The orchestrations by Michael Starobin are pretty spectacular,” claims Mel Marvin. “[Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical] is not written to be a sweet little children’s show. It has a lot of strength, and it can be appreciated by children and adults alike.”
He notes, “We just made the cast album. You can download it from iTunes, and probably find all the songs on Spotify, too…. It turned out quite well.”
Mel Marvin adds, “The show seems to do well in every size venue. The San Diego theater only has 600 seats. When the show played Madison Square Garden last year, there were 5,000 seats…. If [Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical] is the first big theatrical events that a child sees, the child will want to keep coming to the theater.”
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents DR. SEUSS’ HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! THE MUSICAL at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3-5; 8 p.m. Dec. 6; 11 a.m. and 2, 5, and 8 p.m. Dec. 7, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Dec. 8 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco District.
TICKETS: $42.75-$121.75 (including fees).
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-2787 or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/how_to_buy_tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1550867.
GROUP RATES (20+ tickets): 919-281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/group_services.
NEWS RELEASE: http://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/added-saturday-matinee-to-how-the-grinch-stole-christmas-at-dpac.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQkmT8D3GIs.
SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: http://www.dpacnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC.
DPAC ADVISORIES: “Content Advisory: Most parents would find this program suitable for ages 4 and above. Kids at DPAC: All guests require a ticket, regardless of age. Children under the age of 4 are not allowed at these performances. Children must be also able to sit quietly in their own seat without disturbing other guests.”
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 musical): http://www.grinchmusical.com/ (official website) and http://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).
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.)