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Review of Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas!

Ranch & Coast Arts & Culture Editor Darlene G. Davies and contributor Paul Marshall offer their thoughts on The Old Globe's rendition of the beloved Dr. Seuss classic

John Treacy Egan as Old Max, Andrew Polec as The Grinch, and Tommy Martinez as Young Max
Published

By Darlene G. Davies and Paul Marshall

Have you gotten your Grinch fix yet? You still have time. Many generations of San Diegans and visitors kick off their holiday seasons with a visit to The Old Globe’s annual Grinch production. Young or old, it appeals to the best in people. Having been at the first production of Grinch in 1998 and having eaten a magnificent meal of Who-food afterward offers some perspective regarding this much beloved show.

Andrew Polec as The Grinch in Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, 2021

“Welcome Christmas,” sung by the Who Chorale, greets enthusiastic audiences at the 24th annual production of Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas! Who are the Whos? The Whos live in Whoville, of course, and they love to celebrate Christmas. In contrast, the Grinch loathes Christmas. When Mr. Grinch roars, particularly at certain children, it’s pretty startling, in fact downright scary. He can howl as well as roar.His vocal range and volume levels are as impressive as they are commanding. Significantly, there is a new lead cast member playing Grinch this season. His name is Andrew Polec and Old Globe audiences may have first encountered this very physical actor in the summer 2021 production of Hair in the outdoor theatre. Polec brings Grinch to life as an almost cartoon-like presence, which makes sense once you learn his take on Grinch is based on his viewing of the 1960s animated film while he was young. He is only 32 now. His performance dominates the stage.

Everything about this Grinch is entertaining, with its simple message regarding the meaning of Christmas. This beloved holiday is about loving people, not things, a message that causes us to feel better and more hopeful. Mr. Grinch is such an ogre. He hates everything, but most of all, he hates Christmas, and he hatches a plot to dress as Santa Claus and on late Christmas Eve, travel down, via sleigh, from high on the mountain where he lives in isolation to the town of Whoville, shimmy down the chimney with his accomplice dog, Young Max, and steal all Whoville presents and decorations.(Old Max narrates the story of the play.) But, in the midst of trying to do so, he encounters little Cindy-Lou Who, and she shows him nothing but love and kindness. In fact, the entire town is like that, and it really irritates him. When Whoville responds to the robberies with characteristic love and well wishes for one another, the Grinch undergoes a remarkable transformation. In this flash of insight, Polec manages the moment of epiphany in a completely believable way, a tricky thing to do in a fairly brief moment. 

Sophia Adajar as Cindy-Lou Who and Andrew Polec as The Grinch in Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

This show was originally conceived and directed by Jack O’Brien, and, based upon the original concept, has been modified and enhanced by director James Vasquez over the years. The music was composed by Mel Marvin, with book and lyrics by Timothy Mason. The storybook set and the costumes are pure Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) imagination, with some deserved credit to scenic designer John Lee Beatty. Musical director and conductor of the Who-chestra is Elan McMahan. Choreography has been embellished by Bob Richard. To give an idea of what is involved in putting this show together, consider there are 34 wigs and hairpieces used, seven hats worn each performance, four sleighs, 42 pairs of shoes, and 24 prop presents on stage. The Grinch drinks 20 ounces of water each performance. Four loads of laundry must be done following every show, and they include 21 pairs of gloves, six pairs of bloomers, and even oven mitts. The Mount Crumpit set weighs over a thousand pounds. These are major undertakings to enable production of this light-hearted musical which is packed with terrific songs, including audience favorites “One of a Kind” and “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Audiences often know the songs and sometimes sing along, since performances encourage interaction.

Every member of the large cast is completely professional. There are 28 cast members, 12 youngsters, and 16 adults. Singing voices are strong in both solo and choral delivery, there is not a weak voice in the bunch. Even the performance begins on time, a rare occurrence these days. “Who Likes Christmas?” you may ask. Apparently, nearly everyone. The production runs through December 31. theoldglobe.org

Image Credits Photography by Rich Soublet II

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