‘The Grinch’ growls in flat touring production


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Stefan Karl is the Grinch in “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas”

I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a Grinch this holiday season. And I fully embrace my Grinchy-ness. Sometimes, we need to separate ourselves from the joy and merriment that overwhelms the season. All that singing, noise-making, jingle-belling. E. Nuf. Bring on the seasonal schadenfreude.

So, I completely support where the grumpy green one is coming from. And in the musical version of the Dr. Seuss classic penned by Timothy Mason (book and lyrics) and Mel Marvin (music), we have the larger-than-life Stefan Karl as Mr. Grinch. Karl delivers the grand, menacing, campy performance we all expect – a mean one whom we love to hate, but eventually learn to love. He’s scary but scarred. Angry but anguished.

In addition to Karl, we have angelic-voiced Jenna Iacono as Cindy-Lou Who, who, just like the Grinch, managed to melt my heart. I also found her bio a joy: she’s working on her black belt in Tae Kwon Do and wishes to work with Robert Downey, Jr. In other words, she’s my kind of Who.

Aside from Karl and Iacono, this musical adaptation, directed by Matt August, is as stiff and one-dimensional as its sets (by John Lee Beatty). Yes, we gain some additional insight into the Grinch’s Machiavellian motivations, and the telling of the tale by the Grinch’s trusty hound Max (the appealing Bob Lauder) as a sort of memory play are smart and welcome additions, but, for a 90-minute one-act, there’s a lot of fluff (not unlike the stuff pumped from the Caddy Palace’s ceilings in the final moments to remind us that Christmas=snow).

I mean, the Whos are merely an incessantly joyous device for the Grinch to react to. And, well, aside from Cindy-Lou, they’re all kind of annoying. The only creature with any real passion — misguided or not — is the Grinch. So when the Grinch does become (spoiler!) a jolly fellow, you feel his heart has been sucked dry, rather than filled three times bigger.

While kids and families seemed to enjoy themselves, I say save your cash and revisit the book or beloved cartoon with a cup of (spiked) eggnog.

“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical” plays through December 16 at the Cadillac Place Theatre. More info here >;

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