Every child growing up has (or should be) exposed to Dr. Seuss, the famous writer, cartoonist, and animator of children’s books. Although he had many famous classics including The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who!, and Green Eggs and Ham, my personal favorite is How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Of all the wonderful Christmas stories, cartoons, and movies, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is hands down my all-time favorite! A fun fact: The word “Grinch” is derived from the French word grincheux, which means grumpy or greedy.
In Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: The Musical, now playing at the Durham Performing Arts Center, as in the 1957 book and 1966 animated television special, The Grinch is a jaded (misunderstood) green monster who lives in a cave on Mount Crumpet. He hates noise, children and, most of all, Christmas!
The Grinch (played by Philip Bryan, in the 2016 tour) has a faithful sidekick named Max the Dog, who tries to be his voice of reason. Mount Crumpet overlooks the town of Whoville, where all the Citizens of Who live. The Whovillians have warm hearts and a love of Christmas! They make grand plans and loud joyful noises, and have large luxurious feasts.
Overwhelmed by the disruptions and noise, The Grinch decides to get rid of Christmas and steal the joy of the Whovillians. His plot is foiled when he unexpectedly feels something that he has never felt before, remorse and love.
This production varies slightly from the original 1957 book of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. It also varies from the famous 1966 cartoon that we are all familiar with. For instance, in the book, Max the Dog is the happy-go-lucky silent sidekick of The Grinch. In this musical, Max the Dog is portrayed as both a Young Max (Andreas Wyder), shown in flashback sequences, and an older, wiser Old Max (Bob Lauder), who acts as the show’s narrator, telling the story of that fateful Christmas.
Bob Lauder also sings the famous song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” with the wonderful iconic booming bass voice that you’d expect. Old Maxis a warm, jovial character who has a bittersweet ending. Lauder sings a portion of the song as a duet with Young Max, and gets a little help from the audience on the reprise.
Philip Bryan as The Grinch tries to put his own personal spin on the character. Although he has a very impressive vocal range, he portrays The Grinch more as a pouting rock star at times and in a comic style similar to that of actor and comedian Jim Varney in the Ernest movies at other times.
As an actor, it is hard to portray an iconic character. On the one hand, you are expected to depict the character that everyone knows and loves; while on the other hand, you try to bring a fresh approach or new life to the role. Although at first I wasn’t sure if I liked Bryan’s new approach to The Grinch, as the story progressed, the new Grinch grew on me.
The role of Cindy-Lou Who, the sweet, lovable, and hopeful tot alternates between Julia Rose DiPiazza and Danielle Guilbot. Last night’s performance was Guilbot. Other leading Who’s include Papa Who (Vincent DiPeri); Mama Who (Melissa Weisbach), Grandma Who (Barbara Bayes), and Grandpa Who (Brian Rooney). Weisbach has a beautiful clear soprano voice, and Rooney is hilarious as Grandpa Who.
The entire cast and ensemble did a fantastic job of keeping the energy high. The Adult 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.
Inspired by Dr. Seuss’ original book, the musical features a book and lyrics of Timothy Mason and music by Mel Marvin. Director Matt August does a good job at engaging the audience and allowing them to participate in the show. This show is based on the 2006 production of the Old Globe Theatre of San Diego, CA, and originally conceived and directed by three-time Tony Award® winner Jack O’Brien.
The tour features highly energetic choreography by Bob Richard, based on the original choreography of John DeLuca. The set designed by John Lee Beatty is very whimsical, and looks like a page ripped right out of an illustrated storybook. Lighting designer Pat Collins and associate lighting designer Charlie Morrison utilize multiple scrims and curtains for magical special effects.
On opening night at DPAC (Nov. 29th), there were a few technical glitches with microphones and a couple of late spotlights. With a few tweaks, these kinks will be resolved. Lighting, show control, and stage command equipment was provided by Production Resource Group of New Windsor, NY, LLC; sound Equipment by Masque Sound; and makeup by MAC.
I must admit that I was a little disappointed in the makeup for The Grinch. Part of what made The Grinch so lovable was his slightly sweet, slightly mischievous facial expressions. In Jim Carrey’s 2000 movie version of this story, a prosthetic mask was used to retain some of those qualities.
This production utilizes stage makeup in lieu of the prosthetic mask. Unfortunately, this Grinch resembles more of an angry Japanese sumo wrestler and less of the iconic character that we all love. However, costume designer Robert Morgan creates fun, delicious, whimsical delights for the Whovillians. The costumes are elaborate, over-the-top, and slyly resemble Christmas ornaments.
Don’t be a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, you should definitely go to see this show. The cast and crew put their hearts, souls, and personalities into this production. Very young children might be slightly frightened by The Grinch, but most children will enjoy it. The “older children,” also known as adults, will also enjoy the production as long as they go into it with a slightly open mind and do not expect an exact replication of their childhood favorite. After all, we should all “Welcome Christmas,” or at least the warm welcoming spirit behind it.
SECOND OPINION: Nov. 29th Raleigh, NC News & Observer video preview by Jill Knight: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article117842368.html and Nov. 23rd preview by Lori D. R. Wiggins: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/community/midtown-raleigh-news/article116629943.html; 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 and July 22nd preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/sensory-friendly-grinch-special-performance-at-dpac-for-autism-spectrum/article_2616af5e-501e-11e6-a60d-ab1a20601612.html (Note: You must subscribe to read these articles); 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 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/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Nov. 29th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/11/dr-seuss-how-the-grinch-stole-christmas-the-musical-returns-to-dpac-on-nov-29-dec-4/.)
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), firstname.lastname@example.org, 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).
Shannon Plummer-White is no stranger to the stage! She studied Musical Theater & Opera at the American Musical Dramatic Academy in New York City, and has appeared in films such as Iron Man 3 and Safe Haven. She has also performed with the North Carolina Master Chorale and the North Carolina Symphony. When she isn’t on stage or making magic behind the scenes, she can be found in the art studio playing with fire and molten glass. She is an animal advocate with a special love of cats. She has four rescued fur children and a very supportive husband. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.