Dr. Seuss' the Grinch Who Stole Christmas! The Musical -- Theater Review

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It's not hard to like anything even distantly connected with Dr. Seuss. The vitality of his characters, particularly his most evil and downtrodden ones, are so childish and therefore easily manipulated that the musical's happy ending after an hour or so provides a reasonable facsimile of good Christmas cheer.

The best tunes are the ones from the TV cartoon, and they are wisely repeated multiple times; the others have a tired air. The Whos, of course, are all marvelous dancers and clowns; their choreography is delightful, and the direction of all the goings-on is brilliant. The parent (Danny Gurwin, Melinda Gilb) and grandparent (Rosemary Loar, Stuart Zagnit) Whos are as lovably silly as they are stupid. The children are wonderful, with special mention to Kayley Stallings, who sings Cindy-Lou Who: She creates just the adorable, forthright, brave and courageous kind of little girl every Grinch needs to turn their life around.

"Grinch" is perfect for children, though one might shriek at the Grinch's entrance. (Have an arm around their shoulder if you're concerned.) But rest assured that from there on out, Stefan Karl's characterization of the Grinch is so broad that any momentary terror will be overcome by his inescapable good humor, mind-boggling antics, breathtaking makeup and great costume. For Grinch aficionados, Karl manages all this along with a Shakespearean sense of the fool.

As a tired, old, reflective Max (the Grinch's dog) bordering on depression, John Larroquette resists sentimentality and works hard to earn the audience's love. As young Max, James Royce Edwards does all the running, jumping and singing things with wholesome energy and charm; he deserves more thespian attention from the other principals. All he gets from them are stares.

Venue: Pantages Theatre, Hollywood (Through Jan. 3)
Cast: Stefan Karl, James Royce Edwards, Kayley Stallings
Book-lyrics: Timothy Mason
Composer: Mel Marvin
Director: Matt August
Choreographers: John DeLuca, Bob Richard
Set designer: John Lee Beatty
Costume designer: Robert Morgan
Lighting designers: Pat Collins, D.M. Wood
Sound designer: Acme Sound Partners
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