BWW Review: the GRINCH and Whoville is still worth a holiday visit
"Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" is that lovable anti-hero that has become a San Diego tradition and as this Old Globe production enters its 20th year it's clear that this production is as much a tradition as a Yule Log or a peppermint candy.
For those that may not know, or have been living in a cave on a mountain like the title character, here's the plot: every who down in Who-ville likes Christmas a lot, but the Grinch who lived just north of Who-ville does NOT! The kiddie Who's torment the Grinch with their overzealous and cacophonous "Whatchama-who" celebration of all the gifts they receive bright and early Christmas morning. We can all sympathize, right? Who likes being woken up to that in the early hours?
As per usual with holiday traditions, it's hard to be the newcomer to them and make them your own. But Edward Watts' take on the Grinch is one that fits in perfectly. His portrayal is a bit more snarky, with a touch of subtle sweetness that keeps this Grinch from being too overblown (and probably makes him a bit more relatable). Watts has a strong voice, and the growl that keeps this character formidable right up until he is felled by that tiny tot Cindy-Lou Who.
So the Grinch plots the only thing that makes sense - he tries to stop Christmas from coming. He enlists his poor but loyal pup Max to help him, and sneaks down to the town to enact his plan.
It's nice to see the talented returning actors playing the Adult Who's; Bets Malone and Robert J. Townsend as Mama Who and Poppa Who respectively and Nancy Snow Carr and Larry Raben are delightful as they try to keep this holiday magical for the kids.
The kids as the Who's are all adorable and talented, especially Abigail Estrella as Cindy-Lou (played in rotation with Reese McCulloch) who helps the Grinch learn more about love and the meaning of Christmas.
Steve Gunderson is the loveable narrator, the older version of Max the dog who is super dapper and huggable looking in his scarf and vest combination. He brings a balance of wistfulness and disapproval as he looks back on his former self and the Grinch's plans.
Dan DeLuca is an adorable enthusiastic young Max, and covers the stage with puppy exuberance. I especially like his gleeful exclamation of 'puppies!" when he sees the sleeping Who kids.
You know it still hits home when at the end of the opening night performance, when the cast sang 'Who Likes Christmas?" there were answering cheers of "Me!" from the audience both young and old.
As for me? I'm team Grinch, I mean, before he has that terrible heart condition that afflicts him at the end of the show. I'm all for the holiday's, but what can I say? I like my sleep.
"Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" is playing at The Old Globe through December 24th. For show time, ticket, and attendance ages go to www.theoldglobe.org