Theater Reviews



St. James Theatre, New York
Through Jan. 6

There was no doubt that for the many baby-boomer parents in attendance, the title character of "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical" emerges as a surprisingly sympathetic figure. Considering the endless profusion of expensive holiday children's entertainments vying for their dollars, not to mention "Hannah Montana," "High School Musical" and all the others of its ilk, the anti-Christmas sentiments espoused by Theodor Geisel's immortal creation must seem like a tonic.

The musical, back on Broadway for a Christmastime run, was a surprising smash success last season and should have no problems minting similar holiday coin this year.

The production originally was conceived and staged by Jack O'Brien for San Diego's Old Globe Playhouse. Although Matt August is the credited director, O'Brien has apparently taken the opportunity to "re-imagine" select scenes for this revival. A couple of new numbers by Timothy Mason and Mel Marvin have been added to beef up the skimpy running time to 85 minutes, and John Lee Beatty has altered his set designs -- based, of course, on the original Dr. Seuss illustrations -- to accommodate the change of venue.

Its new home is the most felicitous aspect of this year's edition. The agreeably low-tech proceedings fit much more comfortably in the relatively intimate confines of the St. James than they did last year in the cavernous Hilton (now home to "Young Frankenstein").

The show itself remains an enjoyably faithful adaptation of the classic book that should well delight kiddies while not proving onerous to their adult chaperones. The new musical score doesn't improve much on a second listen, but there are still the classic songs from the television special -- "Welcome, Christmas" and, of course, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" -- to enliven the proceedings.

Veteran actor Ed Dixon has agreeably taken over from John Cullum as the narrator Old Max, while Patrick Page reprises his crowd-pleasing turn as the Grinch. Indeed, it's the latter's highly entertaining performance, complete with many seemingly improvised, amusing asides -- "I love it when the little ones cry" is a typical comment following the inevitable bawling that occurs -- that helps make the show as enjoyable for adults as well as tykes.

Presented by Running Subway, EMI Music Publishing, Michael Speyer, Allen Spivak, Janet Pailet, Amy Jen Sharyn and Maximum Entertainment
Book-lyrics: Timothy Mason
Music: Mel Marvin
Original production conceived and directed by: Jack O'Brien
Director: Matt August
Choreographer: John DeLuca
Set designer: John Lee Beatty
Lighting designer: Pat Collins
Costume designer: Robert Morgan
Sound designer: Acme Sound Partners
The Grinch: Patrick Page
Old Max: Ed Dixon
Young Max: Rusty Ross
Grandpa Who: Darin DePaul
Papa Who: Aaron Galligan-Stierle
Mama Who: Tari Kelly
Cindy-Lou Who: Caroline London/Athena Ripka
Grandma Who: Jan Neuberger