By Mary Boyle
As a child of the 70's and 80's, it's difficult for me to warm up to any version of Dr. Suess's classic story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, that isn't the 1966 animated Christmas special narrated by Boris Karloff. I did not care for the 2000 live-action film starring Jim Carrey, and while I've yet to see the digitally-animated version that just hit the theaters, narrated by Pharrell Williams, I will be going into it with a massive amount of skepticism. Live theatre, though, is an entirely different scenario. Like listening to live music as opposed to the radio, being able to see this holiday classic on the stage is a rare treat, and the Broadway at the Marcus Center series makes it possible, with Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical from November 20-25.
With music by Mel Marvin and book and lyrics By Timothy Mason, Grinch! The Musical made its Broadway debut in 2006, topping Broadway Box Office grosses. While the Broadway show utilizes some of the songs from the original animated feature, as well as some of the original text from the book, there are 8 new songs that help to emphasize the differing holiday experience for both the Grinch and the citizens of Whoville. Unlike the book, this story is narrated by Old Max, the Grinch's dog, as he reflects back on this most memorable Christmas, and there is more focus on Cindy Lou Who's immediate family than in the original tale, as well.
Philip Huffman plays the Grinch, himself, and dedicates his performance to the memory of Stefán Karl, an Icelandic actor who played the iconic role for 7 seasons before succumbing to cancer this past August. Huffman is a sassy Grinch, who has just enough off behavior to appeal to grown ups and also your average 5-7 year old. Young Max is played by Jared Starkey, and the relationship between him and the Grinch is far more complex, and a little bit more unhealthy, than in the original tale. W. Scott Stewart, who plays Old Max, has a voice that is reminiscent of Boris Karloff's, which really ties the production into the classic that most parents in the audience will remember. Then, of course, there's little Cindy Lou Who, is double cast and played by either Fiona Quinn or Lily Tamburo. Keep an eye out for Grandpa Who, Michael L. Parks, who is good fun.
The Grinch is an excellent holiday show for the whole family in that it is geared to be fun for the grown ups in the audience; however, because of that, I wouldn't recommend it for children under 5, both because of content and because it is a long production with no intermission. That being said, for families with children 5 and older, this is a fun holiday romp and a great way to introduce kids to a Broadway production with a story that is already familiar to them. More importantly, Dr. Suess' touching reminder that Christmas doesn't come from a store is as needed as ever, and working to understand and include people — even the grumpy people who almost ruined the holiday — is a message we all need to hear right now.
Dr. Suess's How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical runs through November 25th at the Marcus Center's Uihlein Hall, located at 929 North Water Street in downtown Milwaukee. There is no performance on Thanksgiving. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Box Office at (414) 273-7206 or online at www.marcuscenter.org/show/how-the-grinch-stole-christmas/
The 2018/19 Broadway at the Marcus Center series has an exciting lineup! Join them for The Book of Mormon, Fiddler on the Roof, Phantom of the Opera, The King and I, Come From Away, and Anastasia.