Live Theatre Review: Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Dr. Seuss, born Theodore Geisel, must be the most successful author on a per syllable basis. The locally based Dr. Seuss Enterprises carefully curates the author’s legacy, and this production at The Old Globe has been an annual ideal destination. Having seen it a decade and a half ago with our grade school daughters, it is actually possible that I enjoyed it even more this time.

Andrew Polec as Grinch elicits audible gasps myriad times during the brisk 90 minute musical production, especially when he breaks the fourth wall to shrieks of delight. Polec channels his inner Tim Curry, which is deal for this over-the-top delivery (no doubt honed via Polec’s prior role in “Bat Out of Hell”). It is understandable that Polec won the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music’s 23rd Annual Lotte Lenya Competition in 2021.

Iris Manter as Cindy-Lou Who and Andrew Polec as The Grinch in Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, 2023. Photo by Jim Cox.

Old Max (Steve Gunderson) is our tour guide, reflecting back on the fateful night we all watched on the TV episode from 1966. Young Max (Tommy Martinez) is a bit more demure, as Grinch’s sidekick and reluctant aide-de-camp. The citizens of Whoville range from the delightful Iris Manter as Cindy-Lou Who to the four parental units played by Noah Rivera as Papa Who, Ariella Kvashny as Mama Who, Larry Raben as Grandpa Who and Bets Malone as Grandma Who.

The stage design (by John Lee Beatty) for Whoville is limited to black, white, pink and red. The stage is ideally designed Grinch takes the stage, as his lime green head to toe outfit pops in juxtaposition. With soft contours and no right angles, the entire set screams Dr. Seuss beautifully.

(center) Andrew Polec as The Grinch with the cast of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, 2023. Photo by Jim Cox.

Musical Director Elan McMahan does a fine job, especially for the well-received sing-along of the familiar “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” James Vásquez directs the production with a steady hand, from an original conception by Jack O’Brien.

The book and lyrics by Timothy Mason expand admirably on the original TV episode. Mason, who also attained acclaim as a best-selling novelist, died early this year. His work with Grinch will delight kids from 1 to 92 for decades to come.

The production runs through December 31, tickets available here.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.