Some quite delicious moments in ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’
BY HEDY WEISS Theater Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org December 5, 2012 11:54PM
Stefan Karl as the Grinch with Seth Bazacas as Young Max in "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas."
“DR. SEUSS’ HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS!
When: Through Dec. 16
Where: Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph
Info: (800) 775-2000; www.BroadwayInChicago.com
Updated: December 6, 2012 8:02PM
OK you dear readers of pre-primers and more:
Here’s a riddle to ponder as you drink through your straw.
There’s a hint to be had in the red, white and black,
Plus the creature encased in a swampy green sack.
But before thinking further, let me tell you all this:
The Grinch was my favorite, and his dog was a stitch.
But those twittering “Who” things drove me close to distraction
And I just wish the ogre had a less heartfelt reaction.
My apologies Dr. Seuss, but your rhymed verse is catchy.
Yet I’m now switching to prose to get really scratchy.
“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” the 90-minute musical version of the classic children’s book, arrived at the Cadillac Palace Theatre Wednesday night. It’s high-priced children’s theater, with a story that is somewhere between “The Night Before Christmas” and a picture-book version of Scroogelike redemption. And while there are aspects of it that might easily get on one’s nerves, there also are some quite delicious moments.
The very best thing about it all — and Theodor Seuss Geisel’s genius was that he understood this better than almost anybody — is that kids love cranks and obstructionists and identify immediately with them. (Just listen to their conspiratorial giggles.)
Adults may also feel at one with the holiday-hating Grinch (played with great flair by Stefan Karl, the actor known as Robbie Rotten in the Icelandic-bred, worldwide-distributed TV series “LazyTown”),who proclaims himself the happy if dyspeptic loner in the vaudeville-style number “One of a Kind.” Listening to him rail against all the exaggerated glee and hyperactive hoots of Whoville’s gift-saturated children in “I Hate Christmas Eve” also might strike a chord.
Really, you’ve just gotta love the guy, even if you empathize with his loyal but disapproving dog, Max, played in his frisky canine youth by the fleet, funny Seth Bazacas. It is the elderly Max, played by an avuncular Bob Lauder, who narrates the story, remembering his owner’s dastardly attempt to steal all the trappings of Whoville’s Christmas many years earlier, as well as the Grinch’s transformation from curmudgeon to love sponge thanks mostly to the attention of little Cindy-Lou Who (Georgia Kay Wise, a Thumbelina-size Patti LuPone-in-the-making), and the realization that “maybe Christmas DOESN’T come from a store” after all.
The show, which has been around in one form or another since the mid-1990s, features a book and lyrics by Timothy Mason and music by Mel Marvin (with additional material by Albert Hague and Dr. Seuss). Initially conceived and directed by Broadway veteran Jack O’Brian, and subsequently staged by Matt August — with Bob Richard re-creating John DeLuca’s choreography — its most off-putting element is the skittery, amateur, children’s-theater style way in which all the Whos are made to move. It is unbefitting of anything Seussian.
John Lee Beatty’s sets play winningly on Seuss’ original drawings, and Robert Morgan’s costume for the Grinch is perfection, right down to its insinuating fingertips.
Of course the question is asked: Just why did the Grinch hate Christmas so much? Dr. Seuss suggests that maybe “his head wasn’t screwed on just right, [or] his shoes were too tight, [or perhaps] his heart was two sizes too small.”
As for me, I think the Grinch was on to something.