FSCJ ARTIST SERIES THEATRE REVIEW
Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom [email protected]
The FSCJ Artist Series, now celebrating its 50 anniversary, opened the musical “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” which is based on a children’s story written by Dr. Seuss, for a six-day run during December 1 – 6, 2015. The musical, a Broadway in Jacksonville presentation, is on stage in the Moran Theatre at the Times Union Center for the Performing Arts, in Jacksonville, Florida. For tickets and additional information, call (904) 442-2929 or visit artistseriesjax.org.
Dr. Seuss first told the story of the Grinch in an illustrated children’s book published in 1957, which was an immediate success. In 1966, it was made into an animated television special, which aired annually. In 2000, comedian Jim Carrey played the Grinch in a popular film. The musical adaptation by Timothy Mason and Mel Marvin debuted in Minneapolis in 1994, and later opened on Broadway in 2006. The current version is the sixth national tour of “Grinch.”
On opening night, the TU Center was buzzing with children and adults enjoying special family night activities. Opportunities for face painting, using artistic skills to color illustrations of the Grinch, and taking photos that included the Grinch were just a few of the many kid-friendly things to do before the opening curtain.
The story features the Grinch, a big, tall, green fearsome creature, who hates Christmas. He decides to ruin the holiday for the Whos—the residents of nearby Whoville—by stealing their gifts and decorations.
The show is narrated by Old Max, the Grinch’s dog, which is played by Bob Lauder, who has appeared in all the tours. The action begins as a flashback, as the Grinch and Young Max (Matt Weinstein) embark on their venture to Whoville. The fifteen citizens of Whoville wear colorful odd-shaped costumes and appear singing and dancing to such songs as “It’s the Thought That Counts” and “Welcome Christmas.”
The mean old Grinch is well on his way to stealing everything in Whoville related to Christmas, until he meets Cindy-Lou Who, one of the youngest residents. Telling more would be a spoiler, let us just say a happy ending follows. Cindy-Lou, who had a small part in the original book but a major role in the musical, was played by Genny Gagnon; this alternating role is shared with Rachel Katzke. Just out of curiosity, we looked up the casting call for this show and found the following role description: no taller than 50 inches, energetic, charismatic, sweet, able to pick up dance quickly, with a beautiful singing voice with range. The talented Ms. Gagnon was a perfect fit for the requirements and looked like a young Shirley Temple. You will love her performance.Stefan Karl was excellent as the Grinch. He will soon be performing this role for the 500th time and it is obvious he loves the interaction with the audience. Mr. Karl sings, is very animated, and is truly outstanding, as is the entire cast.
This is a fast-paced show, ninety minutes without intermission, with many delightful scene changes, great lighting, and colorful costumes. The children we observed were totally mesmerized by the show and gave it their undivided attention. The songs are mostly up-beat with titles like “Who Likes Christmas?” and “Santa for a Day.” The audience has the opportunity to sing along during one song which has the words projected on a scroll.
A real treat toward the end of the show was snow flakes falling from the sky over the audience. And at the end, the reformed Grinch serves up his famous Roast Beast with happy smiles.
This is one of the most perfect kid’s shows we have seen at the Moran Theatre. And with lots of action and a 7:30 start, the children can be home and ready for bed early. This would make a marvelous pre-Christmas present that will be long remembered.