Size does matter. It's a lesson learned in Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, in which the titular monster finally learns to embrace the Yuletide holiday once his too-small heart grows three times its size overnight. And it's a lesson that's hopefully been learned by the show's producers, who in moving the show from last year's venue, the humongous Hilton, to the relatively intimate confines of the St. James have allowed the musical's charms to be felt far more fully.
That's especially good news for the adults in the audience, some of whom are just being devoted parents and some of whom have come to revel in the nostalgia of the beloved book and the classic 30-minute CBS cartoon version. At a now-expanded 80 minutes, the one-act musical -- nicely directed by Matt August and supervised by its original creator/director, the great Jack O'Brien -- is the perfect length to keep the young ones entertained without trying the patience of the older set.
Much of the credit for keeping everyone delighted belongs to the superb Patrick Page, who has deepened his characterization of the Grinch into the kind of guy you love to hate, and yet love -- or at least feel a bit sorry for -- at the same time. Buried beneath a ton of makeup and green fur, Page still has a wonderful connection with the audience -- even throwing in a dead-on ad-lib now and then -- and possesses a commanding stage presence.
Kids and adults alike will also take immediately to both versions of the Grinch's put-upon dog, Max; Old Max (the fine Ed Dixon) who narrates the tale, and Young Max (the adorable Rusty Ross), who tries to stop The Grinch from destroying the Whos' Christmas by coming to town and stealing their trees, their presents, and their food.
For all of the tale's basic simplicity, this version has a few big-scale tricks up its sleeve for visual excitement, along with the excellent cartoon-inspired sets of John Lee Beatty, Robert Morgan's delightfully inventive costumes, and the puppet wizardry of Michael Curry -- all of which make it worthy of Broadway ticket prices.
What the show could use to make it a total success is a much better score. The two famed songs from the cartoon (with music by Albert Hague) have been augmented by some pleasant if mostly forgettable songs by Mel Marvin and Timothy Mason. Perhaps the best of the lot is "It's the Thought That Counts," a sweetly funny ode to the joys and stresses of holiday shopping.
Still, the entire cast -- most notably Tari Kelly as Mama Who and (at my performance), Athena Ripka as young Cindy Lou Who -- gives each number all they have. Even more than size, professionalism does matter!
For TheaterMania's exclusive video feature of Patrick Page getting into make-up and costume, click here.
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