James Schultz as THE GRINCH and the Touring Company of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical. Credit: Jeremy Daniel.
For generations, the young (and young at heart) have fallen in love with the 1957 children’s book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The beloved tale has been made into a cartoon, an iconic film starring Jim Carrey, and a heartwarming stage musical. It is the musical version that’s currently gracing the stage at the Durham Performing Arts Center. Featuring music and a Seuss-inspired book by Mel Marvin and Timothy Mason, direction by Matt August, and choreography by Bob Richard, based on the original choreography by John DeLuca, which itself was created by Jack O’Brien, this delightful 90-minute romp is a true Christmas treat for viewers of all ages.
The familiar story begins when the Grinch’s dog Max, portrayed by a kindly Bob Lauder, steps on stage in his furry, kid-approved costume. As he recounts the long-ago Christmas when the Grinch devised his mean-spirited plan, the frenzied, colorful world of Whoville opens up like magic. Robert Morgan’s over-the-top costumes look like . . . well . . . something out of a storybook, effortlessly bringing the whimsical Whos to life. Viewers are also treated to immersive set pieces, designed by John Lee Beatty, that pay homage to the original book’s illustrations and add a funky, fun visual quality.
Quickly, audiences meet the green mean one himself, performed by a scene-stealing Anthony Catalado. Cataldo knows his (mostly) youthful audience well and plays the Grinch with just the right mix of scary meets silly. He’s intimidating enough to give kids a little thrill, but funny and flustered enough that they’ll want to hug him after the show. He lands every joke, while also sharing some tender moments with the story’s young protagonist, Cindy Lou-Who, portrayed at the opening night performance by an adorable Trinity Vittoria DeVito. Displaying impressive stage presence, perfect poise, and a surprisingly powerful voice, she charms the audience with ease. Lauder also stands out for his pitch-perfect delivery of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” while Andy Hansen’s “Grandpa Who” generates some surprise laughs.
In fact, laughter abounds throughout the entire performance, though there are quite a few tender moments as well. There’s also a sing-a-long that even adults will want to (and should!) join in on, and, one of the best parts, snow that falls gently over the audience.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical is a show that sparks real joy and instills childlike wonder in viewers of all ages. Perfect as a family show or just a fun way to get into the Christmas spirit and de-Grinchify yourself, it’s a must for your holiday bucket list!
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