The first of the Christmas shows is upon us and The Children’s Theatre Company’s (CTC) production of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is going to be a hard one to top when it comes to holiday shows for the entire family. This is the company’s 10th mounting of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! It was originally commissioned by CTC and they held the world premier in 1994, but somehow it was my first time seeing it. When a company remounts a particular show about every three years it’s a sure sign that they have something very special on their hands. That is certainly the case here. It manages that rare feat of taking a well known classic adapting for a new medium, retaining what makes it a classic without simply repeating every beat of the original source material. It manages to be its own thing, fresh and lively, but without losing the feel of what generations have come to know and love. If you want to dazzle the little ones with a little christmas magic, Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! at the CTC will be just the ticket. You will believe a dog can pull a sleigh.
With Book and Lyrics by Timothy Mason and music by Mel Marvin this is absolutely the story you know so well from the original storybook and the beloved 1966 cartoon special. But with the addition of a framing story featuring and old retired Max the dog recounting the year the Grinch stole christmas and a bunch of musical numbers. What’s delightful is that this adaptation retains the original books use of rhyme throughout. For the uninitiated who grew up without books or TV the plot is:
“A miserly and miserable, ever-so-cantankerous Grinch has observed the despicable Christmas joy of the Whos with disdain, from a distance, for decades. Enough! In this favorite holiday story, filled with music and Seussian rhymes, he conceives a dastardly plot to destroy the holiday they love. It’s the smallest of the Whos, tiny Cindy Lou, who extends a hand. Through the combination of kindness and community, we witness not only a change in the course of Who-History, but the size and capacity of the cantankerous Grinch’s heart.”From the CTC Website
The cast is led by Reed Sigmund whose Grinch should immediately be cast as the Emcee in the next local production of Cabaret. Sigmund avoids the obvious and makes the role his own. He’s scary when he needs to be finding just the right level for a theatre full of children. He seems completely at home in the green fur and makeup and having seen his performance I can see why they’ve brought him back for what is his 5th run in the role, he completely owns it. Providing excellent support are Dean Holt and Audrey Mojica as the old and young Max’s. Mojica in particular, a 10th grader at St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Arts, impresses with her ability to hold her own on stage with Sigmund, it’s not easy to make an impression when you are sharing the stage with such a wild character as the Grinch. Elsa Dungan-Hawks plays Cindy-Lou Who and really shines in the role, she gets a very sweet song to sing with the Grinch entitled Santa For a Day and she carries it off beautifully.
What really makes this productions capture the imaginations of its audience, young and old alike, are the creative folks behind the scenes who bring the world of the Grinch and Whoville to life. The set design by Tom Butsch captures the look and feel of the original along with the costumes by David Kay Mickelsen you feel like you are watching a storybook or cartoon come to life. The projection design by Craig Gottschalk is minimally used, but when it is, it’s very effective. The lighting design by by Nancy Schertler helps to sell several of the visual illusions, particularly they Grinch’s trip down the mountain on his sleigh being pulled by young Max. I loved the theatrical stage magic that director Peter C. Brosius brought together with his team to tell this story in a way that allowed us to completely suspend our disbelief and be carried away by the story. This is a beautifully realized production in every way imaginable and a wonderful adventure to start the holiday season with.
Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! runs through January 8th at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis. For more information and to purchase tickets go to https://childrenstheatre.org/whats-on/how-the-grinch-stole-22-23/
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