All good things come to Whos who wait! Finally Dr. Seuss’s “How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” about the Whoville Xmas that almost didn’t happen returns to the Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre for 28 performances through Sun., Dec. 9.
Springfield-born Theodor Seuss Geissl, who even after his passing in 1991 continues to be the best-selling author of children’s books in the world, had one of his biggest successes with his “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”, a satirical and more-American take on “A Christmas Carol.” Whereas Dickens chronicled how Scrooge went from Christmas hater to Christmas lover, thanks to Tiny Tim and four ghosts, Seuss used rhymes and his inimitable illustrations to depict how a grouchy, green cave-dweller stole all the holiday trappings of Whoville until the adorable little Cindy-Lou Who teaches him that Christmas comes even without all the merchandise.
In the opening scenes, it’s hard for anyone overwhelmed by Black Friday stampedes and crowded malls not to sympathize with the Grinch’s scorn for the ungainly Whos who get into a tizzy over the fad gadgets and who try to foist off crummy gifts (including ugly underwear) by saying, “It’s the thought that counts.”
Seuss’s original fantastical backgrounds and basic black, white, and red color scheme are faithfully reflected in Robert Morgan’s deliberately unflattering costumes and John Lee Beatty’s frequently shifting sets.
The production features two memorable songs from the beloved animated 1966 Chuck Jones “Grinch” special, one of the few shows from the ‘60s still aired every Yuletide. These tunes with music by Albert Hague and lyrics by Seuss himself are “You’re Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome, Christmas” with its faux Latin chorus.
Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Come this way!
While these two ditties remain the highlights of the score, composer Mel Mervin and librettist/lyricist Timothy Mason have whipped up eight additional more-than-serviceable tunes, almost all of which are reprised in the course of the show.
Perhaps their most endearing collaboration is the ballad “Santa for a Day,” warbled by the two darling tots who alternate in the role of Cindy-Lou in this production: Tori Feinstein and Abigail Shapiro.
While kudos (and a meaty bone) are definitely in order for Gilbert L. Bailey II for his robust singing and athletic performance as the Grinch’s pitifully abused dog Young Max, the unquestioned star of this production is Broadway veteran Jeff McCarthy as the avocado-colored faced Grinch. He’s funny-scary enough to rivet the attention of the youngsters, but he also manages to tickle the older folks as well with occasional parodies of famous kid-hating snarks like W.C. Fields and Paul Lynde.
This hour-and-a-half show runs without intermission and moves fast enough to keep kids’ absorbed. “Grinch” has loads of matinees, including Saturday performances at 11, 2, and 5 as well as 8 p.m. If you’re coming with tiny ones, be sure to request a booster seat as soon as you get to the Citi Center. Quantities are limited. Visit citicenter.org, or call 866-348-9738, or log onto grinchmusical.com.