It’s that time of year again when we listen to songs, read books, and watch live performances and movies that we have seen more times than we can count and know by heart. Why do we do this? Nostalgia. The longing for community. Hope for a better time. And to keep our traditions alive.
One Christmas classic that has been around for 64 years is Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! We have seen many iterations of this beloved children’s story and I personally have never had a Christmas go by, without watching at least one version of the animated or live-action movie adaptations. This year is no different as I was lucky enough to see Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical at the National Theatre this week.
The touring musical first arrived on Broadway in 2006 and has since been a hit, with yearly fall runs ending after the new year. The show includes the songs “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas” (written by Albert Hague and Dr. Seuss) from the original animated series, and contains much of the original text. Timothy Mason wrote the book and lyrics and Mel Marvin composed the music, which all follow the familiar Seussian style we know and love.
Old Max (W. Scott Stewart) narrates the show as he reminisces about the time he was a young pup and reluctantly helped the Grinch steal Christmas from the Whos. The Citizens of Whoville demonstrate their exuberance with the season with the opening number “Who Likes Christmas?” — ”Whos like Christmas” being the resounding response — and right away the attention to detail and faithfulness to the original work is gloriously apparent.
Set Designer John Lee Beatty has recreated the book’s illustrations and the 1966 animated imagery for the stage, and Robert Morgan’s costume design do the same with the characters. For the current production, direction by Matt August and choreography by Bob Richard are based on John DeLuca’s original choreography and direction originally created by three-time Tony Award winner Jack O’Brien. The whole visual experience is wonderful and mimics the original so well it’s like being immersed in the cartoon itself.
James Schultz plays the Grinch and brings the perfect amount of humor and menacing charm to the disgruntled character. And Xavier McKnight is Young Max, the lovable and faithful dog. McKnight is the sweet to Schultz’s sour, and the two drive the show with song and dance, and commentary from Stewart’s Old Max.
The entire cast is 100 percent committed and sells the happiness and cheer with gusto, but I must acknowledge the precious Cindy Lou Who. The role played alternately by Sofie Nesanelis and Quinn Titcomb, who is so stinking adorable that there is no wonder how she steals the Grinch’s two-sizes-too-small heart, as she steals the show in her moments on stage.
Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical at the National Theatre is a high-energy, funtastic experience and is presented in a full vibrance and vibe that honor the original children’s classic.
The show is suitable for all ages, but parents should know that the Grinch does have moments that may be a little scary to wee ones at first, but they are quickly won back with the Grinch’s silliness and cartoonish expression.
The production is an absolute delight and brings the warmth and cheer that we are all seeking this time of year. So as the song goes:
Welcome Christmas! Bring your cheer!
Welcome all who’s far and near!
Welcome Christmas, come this way!
Welcome Christmas, Christmas Day!
Christmas Day will always be!
Just as long as we have we!
Running Time: Approximately 85 minutes, with no intermission.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical plays through December 5, 2021, at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC. Tickets ($65–$110) are available to purchase online. There is also a digital lottery.
COVID Safety: Proof of vaccination is required for all guests 12 and up. For guests under 12, proof of one dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine received at least 14 days prior to the performance or a negative test is required. Masks are required for guests of all ages to attend this event. See full policy details.