Gavin Lee, as that wonderfully despicable diabolical ridiculously hilarious creature The Grinch, in Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! now playing at Madison Square Garden’s (MSG) Hulu theater, is PHENOMENAL. In case you missed that last part, PHENOMENAL!
We know the Grinch, we’ve all grown up with him, so we have expectations, Lee takes those expectations, parlays them into a Christmas lights knotted bunch and blows the fuse. This is the Grinch of all Grinch’s. He growls and purrs and prances and struts like a rock star and we love it! The audience responds with a beam of joyful light, all eyes on the stage as this magnificent production unfolds the story we already know, and yet this is so very fresh and very fun. The staging! The costumes! And that set! Your children will get a chance to see the magic of theater in all its glory, as will you.
The Grinch first appeared in Redbook magazine in a May 1955 issue as a 32 line poem titled, "The Hoobub and the Grinch." He then got his own book in 1957, "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas." In 1966, it was turned into the TV Christmas special, based on the book, voiced by the sublime horror icon Boris Karloff. Grinch also has an animated movie out this year voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch.
But let me tell you this, the musical at MSG is where you get the best of the Grinch!
Narrated by Max the dog (Ken Land), now older and wiser, Max takes us back to his youth and his time with Grinch and that faithful day when Grinch, with Max’s unwilling help, tries to steal Christmas from the Who’s down in Whoville, but Grinch misunderstands what Christmas is about. He believes the commercialism of it all, the buying and spending and getting and getting is the center of it. What he discovers is, it is not at all. It never was. The Who still have Christmas. “I didn’t stop Christmas from coming. It Came!” The Who understand that the “heart” of the holiday is not what you get, but what you give, and love and community the best gift of all. A good reminder right now in a time when bullying is often revered, and anger and hate honored.
The relationship that develops between The Grinch and Cindy Lou Who is at the core of his heart finding what love is. Their duet, “Santa For A Day”, is lovely and Mackenzie Mercer (she and Avery Sell share the role) was smashing as the iconic Cindy Lou Who.
Along with “Santa For A Day” and the show stopping “One of A Kind”, by Timothy Mason and Mel Marvin, are the tried and true that we all know and love from that beloved TV Christmas Special, “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas,” words by Dr. Seuss and music by Albert Hague. The show runs 85 minutes and those minutes fly by on the wings of joy. And I mean fly by. There is not one moment of down time. You hop on this sleigh ride and off you go.
(Note: You have to go through security to get into the building. It will take some time as it is several shows funneling through the main entrance. So get to the theater at the very least half an hour before curtain to allow for security, ticket pick up if needed, and restroom - the show has no intermission and you do not want to miss a moment of it.)
(Photo by Jordan Bush)