SCHENECTADY - When is a kids’ show not a kids’ show? When it’s material by Dr. Seuss. That's because there is something about the material that provides entertainment for the young and a warm message for the more mature.
With that definition in mind, the quality of “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! – the Musical,” which is at Proctors in Schenectady through Sunday, is a mixed bag.
The show will delight and charm kids. It’s colorful, has some upbeat music and includes several visually attractive dance numbers. Most of all, it has a Grinch that is as bad as bad can be – without being threatening. It’s ideal for young audiences who thrive on repetition.
However, adults who should crave more variety will likely be turned off at the lack of risk displayed in the presentation. Most of the music sounds the same. The choreography is really fun the first time you experience the entire town dancing. It’s even enjoyable the second time. However, the ensemble numbers tend to lose their charm after their third appearance. This is also true of the scene where the Grinch loots the town. It’s clever and cute, but goes on for at least five minutes too long.
This doesn’t mean you should avoid “The Grinch…” Not at all. It’s terrific fun for kids. I attended with 10 and 7 year old girls and they loved the show.
I only suggest you do not attend the Proctors production without a child in tow. And why would you anyway? Shows like this are to be enjoyed and shared in a communal manner. Trust me, the sound of youngsters laughing will bring a smile to your face and put the holiday spirit in your heart.
Indeed, if the production were 60 or70 minutes long instead of 90-minutes, I’d be urging adults to find a way to see the show. The set and costumes are festive, the ensemble is engaging, and the lead performers are excellent. There’s even a happy audience sing-a-long. Best of all, it has a gentle message that families should hear together.
By show’s end, the Grinch learns that his Christmas Eve raid on the Village of Who to steal the toys, gifts and even the food for the feast, do not prevent Christmas from happening. He learns that Christmas is a state of mind and that presents are the least important thing about celebrating the kindest day of the year.
Christmas is about goodness and love – and once the Grinch learns this as a fact – even this nasty creature reforms and becomes gentle and good.
The story is enhanced by Philip Huffman who gives a terrific portrayal of the Grinch. He is able to play the character with all the broadness it needs, yet he establishes that the Grinch is not a nice guy. That he makes this point without menace allows the presentation to be fun instead of terrifying. His balanced performance even makes his redemption a happy event.
Also good is Jared Starkey as Max, the dog who is the Grinch’s young, unwilling accomplice. As it should be, Starkey offers an energetic and eager portrayal. As the older Max, who acts as the play’s narrator, W. Scott Stewart is a comfortable and wise presence. A criticism, meant for adults, is that there is nothing in either portrayal to help you reconcile that the two are actually the same character.
Representative of the spirit of the people of the town is the child Cindy Lou Who. Played by a very, very young and precocious Fiona Quinn, the sweet, innocent character steals every scene in which she appears. I expect, before long, to see her back at Proctors playing the lead in “Annie.”
“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is at Proctors in Schenectady through Sunday. For schedule and tickets call 518-346-6204 or go to proctors.org
Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.
The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.