How the Grinch Stole Christmas
St. James Theatre, New York City - November 2006
Review by John Kenrick
He's green, he's mean, and he's one of the nicest things that could happen to any child's holiday!
I did not see How the Grinch stole Christmas when it debuted on Broadway last year, but was very pleasantly surprised by what a grand time I had seeing it. Yes, the Broadway adaptation is very much the Grinch that we know and love him form the classic Dr. Seuss book and the animated TV special. But in the hands of a talented creative team, the old grouch who tries to steal Christmas from the Who's down in Who-ville has a few new wrinkles, and thanks to a stellar performance by Patrick Page, theatre lovers can treat themselves and their young ones to a whopping good time.
Unlike the ill-fated Seussical the Musical, this production has the good sense to keep the distinctive look of the original Seuss drawings -- no small credit goes to designers John Lee Beatty (sets), Robert Morgan (costumes) and Pat Collins (lighting) for pulling off this visual triumph. Librettist Timothy Mason carries on this theme by telling the entire story in rhyme, just as Seuss did. And if the new songs by Mason and composer Mel Marvin are so ephemeral that you forget them the second they end, what of it? There is still the pleasure of the well-remembered songs that Seuss himself wrote with Tony-winner Albert Hague for the televised cartoon -- and the audience happily joins in for a sing-along chorus of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."
Originally directed by Jack O'Brien, and staged now by Matt August and choreographer John De Luca, this Grinch is clearly aimed at the kiddies, but adults will find themselves caught up in this familiar story all over again -- and more than a few jokes are there to make the ninety minute show a happy one for all age groups.
Ed Dixon is quite loveable as Old Max, the Grinch's former pooch who is heading off to retirement and wants to recall his former master one final time. Young Max is played with great gusto by Rusty Ross, and the various Whos keep a sunny disposition no matter what happens -- which is exactly what Seuss designed them to do. Because of the staggered holiday performance schedule, there are two sets of Who kids. At the performance I attended, Caroline London sang the role of Cindy Lou Who with a warm Annie-like belt, and had more than a few adults wiping away a sentimental tear.
But the real attraction is Patrick Page as the Grinch. Wrapped form head to toe in green fur, Paige creates a wonderfully human and surprisingly loveable character. From the moment he appears on stage, every child seated in my vicinity was mesmerized -- and they quickly took him to their hearts. His growls and roars caused delight rather than fright, and his abhorrence of Christmas struck many a comic cord of recognition with the grown-ups. True stage mugging is a dying art, and Paige keeps it alive here by making the most of every gesture of his hands and each modulation of his voice. Instead of mere bluster, Page gives a performance rich in pathos and comic panache -- grand, theatrical, and an utter delight! Here is someone who understands how to make a theatre come alive, even in a show others might foolishly dismiss as a trifle. Thousands of children will count Grinch as their first Broadway experience, and thanks to Patrick Page, it will be a rich and memorable one.
The long-threatened stagehands strike has unhappily begun just as Grinch begins its holiday run. If that unfortunate action is resolved in time, I strongly urge you to take a youngster you care about to see How the Grinch Stole Christmas. A good time like this should be shared!