Monday, December 17, 2012

‘The Grinch,’ on stage, should make kids smile, but he’s now left town, so is this review really worthwhile? -- Chicago Theater Review

Theater Review

Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical
Cadillac Palace Theatre, Chicago
Run ended

For more than a decade now, I’ve had a Broadway in Chicago subscription that lets me see the first Tuesday night performance of a run. Sometimes, however, for reasons that are never made clear, my assigned show dates are not Tuesday nights.

There have been occasions where this aberration has been logical—such as this week, when both The Book of Mormon and War Horse are in town; strangely though, I was originally ticketed for both shows on the same night—but I have no idea why I am ticketed to see Peter Pan on Thursday, January 31 at 2:00pm nor why I was assigned to see Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Who Stole Christmas: The Musical this past Sunday at 5:00pm.

Broadway in Chicago has a very accommodating exchange policy for subscribers, so there have never been any inconveniences that couldn’t be adjusted, and though I may have been able change away from the Sunday twilight performance, it actually worked out rather well.

Except that seeing the last performance of the Chicago run at the Cadillac Palace renders my review even more inconsequential than normal, except perhaps to denizens of Detroit, where the Grinch goes next.

So I will keep this somewhat brief and say that, especially if you have kids and want to see this show for a price you find acceptable, there’s no reason not to.

It is not a fantastic musical and at just 90 minutes, it's a rather short one. Even among musicals clearly targeted towards families, it falls far short in engendering delight (at least for adults) on par with The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Mary Poppins. And in the realm of holiday-themed family musicals, I found A Christmas Story: The Musical—which ran in Chicago last winter and is on Broadway this one—considerably more imaginative and tuneful.

But although I can’t recall the last time I saw the TV version of The Grinch—and have never watched the Jim Carrey movie—it is sufficiently fun, considerably moving (even for an old Jewish bachelor) and has enough well-executed musical numbers that I can’t suggest it is crassly opportunist.

Stefan Karl makes for a good Grinch, Bob Lauder is a fun Max as an old dog, Seth Bazacas as a young one and little Jenna Iacono almost steals the show as Cindy-Lou Who. She almost single-handedly gives it whatever emotional heft it has.

The book and lyrics of the musical, which is based on Dr. Seuss' book of the same name, are by Timothy Mason, while Mel Marvin wrote the music. Although the musical was first staged in 1994 and had short Broadway runs in both the 2006 and 2007 holiday seasons, I couldn't find a cast recording to familiarize myself with the music beforehand.

So other than the old "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch," I didn't know any of the songs, and while several sounded tuneful, the only one I really recall a day later is "Who Likes Christmas," and that's because it was reprised often.

To close the book on "The Grinch" in Chicago, it was by no means a masterpiece, but especially after the tragedy that took place on Friday, it was heartwarming to hear the laughter of children. And even without any kids of my own, the show was worthwhile as part of my upper balcony subscription.

Though I am glad I didn't shell out more green on this night / For the Grinch on stage is fun, but in the end fairly slight.

No comments: