BWW Reviews: The GRINCH Brings the Christmas Spirit to Durham
It's time to get into the Christmas spirit in the Triangle! Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical has landed at the Durham Performing Arts Center this week, bringing with it heaps of the holiday spirit.
There have been many incarnations of this classic story since it was first published in 1957, and this musical adaptation includes elements which will appeal to fans of each version. Those who love the original book will enjoy that the sets look like illustrations right from Dr. Seuss's book. The charming character of the iconic illustration style is clear in each set piece. Those who love the animated TV special from 1966 will be glad to know that this show includes the perennial favorite song, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." Fans of the feature film version from 2000 will enjoy the Grinch's goofy comic moments, in a similar style to the film's popular portrayal. Grinch fans of all sorts will find that this production appreciates the legacy of the story and those who have told it before.
Though the storyline is exposition-heavy for the first half or so, and many songs serve functions other than plot advancement, the show moves at a decent pace - one which is comfortable for children and adults in the audience. The show really gets going when the Grinch sings "One of a Kind." The projection design is thoughtfully implemented, often used to make it "snow" on stage, though there are a few scenes for which the amount of scenery is underwhelming. On a few occasions, the actors are downstage with hardly any set pieces (or none at all). Most of the time, the projections help fill the void.
The cast is a talented ensemble of skilled singers helmed by Stefan Karl as the Grinch. Karl's comic timing, subtle physical comedy, and dedication to the role are assets to the show. The entire cast is able to maintain this high-energy show (including more than a few fast-paced, high-energy musical numbers with plenty of movement) for the entire 90 minutes. Bob Lauder steers this ship successfully as narrator Old Max, and Jenna Iacono (who alternates in the role with Piper Birney) was charming as the beloved Cindy Lou Who.
Ultimately, this show is about good old wholesome Christmas spirit. The show, which reminds us that Christmas isn't about what you have but rather who you're with, includes songs with other important messages for the holiday season (and all year, for that matter). One song proclaims that "it's not the gifts we give, it's the thought that counts." Cindy Lou and the rest of Whoville remind us that it never hurts to show a little kindness, even to someone who may not deserve it.
The show is certainly appropriate for children, and young ones will enjoy this night of theater. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical runs through December 8. For tickets and more information, visit www.dpacnc.com.