Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! is a classic book, possibly better known today as the film featuring Jim Carrey, which was released – and this may make you feel old – almost 20 years ago. It became the second biggest grossing ‘seasonal’ film of all time (can you guess the first?*). Though it’s a small wonder that they decided to pop the film on stage four years later, it’s taken until 2019 for the production to get a UK-wide theatre tour.
It can’t be spoiling much to tell you that the Grinch is a mean-spirited green fellow who finds himself pretty irked by the rambunctious and rollicking festive frolics of the inhabitants of nearby town, Whoville. So he enlists his faithful – if reluctant – dog, Max, to snaffle Christmas from under their somnolent noses. And were it not for the candy cute endeavours of the Pollyanna-optimist, Cindy Lou, he might have had his wicked way.
This production is as pretty as a picture, and if you’ve ever wanted to wander off piste into the pages of a Dr Seuss book, here’s your chance. Robert Morgan‘s costumes deserve a prize all to themselves; the cast wear their lumps, bumps and skinny skirts lightly. As if Christmas trees, stockings and sleighs weren’t festive enough, set designer John Lee Beatty adds some extra festive fizz for the curtain call, thrilling the audience..
The stage show is possibly a little light on plot – which is perhaps inevitable given the source material – yet a brilliantly boisterous cast throw themselves into the story with fervour. The kids in the audience are enthralled and it would take a Grinch-sized-hearted person not to be swept along for the ride.
Old Max (Steve Fortune), the been-around-the-block version of the Grinch’s unlucky pet, has a lovely worldly-wise manner to his disappointed tail flicks. Mama and Papa Who (Holly Dale Spencer and Alan Pearson) bring a heartfelt panic to the frenzied pre-Christmas present shopping sequence, which is imbued with an empathy-inviting tinge of bitterness that Hollywood couldn’t quite permit. Edward Baker-Duly as the aforementioned Grinch doesn’t quite shake off the spectre of his rubbery-faced predecessor, though perhaps that was always the plan. If so, he executes it with creepily long-fingered, fleet-footed aplomb. And just as the script intended, Cindy Lou (Bebe Massey) saves and steals the show.
Loyalists will love familiar songs, especially ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr Grinch’ and ‘Welcome Christmas’. This newbie very much enjoyed ‘It’s the Thought That Counts’. The live band seem to be having a ball as they perform, with the brass section being a particular delight.
For those with pantomime leanings, we get a few shots at audience participation. In Glasgow a couple of weeks ago, they’re on at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre until Sunday. This show’s a timely reminder that you don’t need presents, a pudding and a roasted beast to have a perfect, twinkly Christmas.