Liked Christmas a lot…
But the Grinch,
Who lived just north of Whoville, Did NOT!
–From “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss
It has become just as much a holiday tradition as Clement Clarke Moore’s “Twas The Night Before Christmas.” Now the inspirational tale comes to town in the form of a Broadway show. “How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” will be on stage at the Schuster Center Nov. 14-19.
The beloved story revolves around the mean and green Grinch, whose heart is “two sizes too small.” After scheming to steal Christmas away from the happy folks in Whoville, he learns an important lesson about the true meaning of the season.
The 85-minute family-friendly show, inspired by the illustrated children’s book by Dr. Seuss, (Theodor Geisel), is geared to all ages with no intermission. It’s based on the original animated TV special that was telecast on CBS in 1966 and starred Boris Karloff as the Grinch and the narrator. Sets and costumes for the musical are inspired by Dr. Seuss’ original illustrations.
Meet Old Max
One of the key players in the 25-member touring cast is seasoned actor Bob Lauder. As Old Max, he narrates the show and sings the classic song, “You’re a Mean One Mister Grinch.” “Max is just a puppy in the original tale,” Lauder explains. “This takes place many years later when he’s an old dog. When he hears the Whos singing, it brings back memories that come alive on stage.”
It’s the 10th Grinch tour for Lauder, who has been on stage for more than 50 years and has been to Dayton previously with the Dayton Opera.
This musical, he says, expands the original story and also adds more songs. Look for special effects as the Grinch and Max head down the mountain and as the Grinch comes up with bright ideas.
Lauder sees the Grinch as very lonely, all by himself. “He is transformed by the Whos,” he notes. “When he steals everything they have from them, he stops before dumping it all off the mountain. He listens to them and his heart grows three sizes.”
Lauder’s own heart also grows bigger as he tours with this show for the 10th season. “I love giving people something they will remember, and I love telling stories,” he shares. “I love singing and it makes me happy to see audiences enjoying themselves and to see the kids’ faces when they come to the stage door. It makes my heart happy.”
He and the other cast members aren’t surprised to see youngsters arrive in costumes. “It’s amazing how many little girls come to the show who look just like Cindy Loo Who!” he says. (A minor character in the original TV special, Cindy Loo later played a major role in the 2000 and 2018 films.)
Lauder says there’s nothing in the show that will scare young children. “There’s slapstick humor, kinda like Looney Tunes. The original animated cartoon of the Grinch was done by the same people who did Looney Tunes. Some of the humor is more sophisticated so the adults will get some things that the young children will not.”
The take-away? “Christmas isn’t just about presents and material things,” concludes Lauder, who has played Santa Claus in Las Vegas, where he resides. " It’s about family being together.”
Read the book!
Families who plan to see the musical can enhance the experience by reading the original story either before or after they see it on stage. Alyssa Childs, Children’s Services Librarian at Dayton Metro Library’s Miamisburg branch, says the book and movie adaptations of the Grinch are always very popular around the holidays.
For many, reading about the Grinch has become an annual tradition. “Parents begin by reading the story and by the time their children are second graders, they can read it by themselves,” she says, adding that all Dr Seuss books make great gifts for the holidays and for baby showers.
“Dr. Seuss is good at what he does because of so much rhyming and repetition before kids start to read,” she explains. " And because of the rhyming, children learn word families and gain more confidence in reading.”
She says there’s also a lot of humor in Seuss books. “The Grinch is funny with all of his antics. He’s always slinking around. Whoville is funny because of the characters and illustrations. Cars don’t quite look like cars, homes don’t look like homes, it’s all more whimsical.”
The message, Childs adds, is an important one. “The Grinch is ostracized from Whoville because he’s different and kind of a grouch because of that,” she explains. " He wants to steal Christmas and all of the hoopla — the food, the presents — because that’s what he thinks that’s what Christmas is about.
“But once he steals them all and brings them to his lair, he sees the people of Whoville still celebrating the holiday, even without all of the decorations and presents. Because to them it’s about being together and celebrating family and community. He decides to bring the presents back; it warms his heart and he celebrates Christmas with them.”
She says there’s also a sequel: a second book entitled “How the Grinch Lost Christmas.”
Did you know there’s a Seuss Museum?
You can also meet the Grinch at “The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum” in Springfield, Massachusetts. The whimsical museum is devoted to Springfield native Theodor Geisel a.k.a. Dr. Seuss!
The bilingual (Spanish and English) first floor features family-friendly, interactive exhibits that provide opportunities to experiment with new sounds and vocabulary, play rhyming games, and invent stories — all in line with Geisel’s revolutionary role in changing how we learn to read.
The second floor, curated by Geisel’s two stepdaughters and great nephew, recreates Geisel’s studio and living room (with the furniture and art materials he actually used) and features his art, family photographs and letters.
According to the museum’s website, Dr. Seuss always called the Grinch his favorite character. “The Grinch? Personally, I like him,” Dr. Seuss once said. “So, I wrote [”How the Grinch Stole Christmas”] to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I’d lost.” (The quote comes from “Becoming Dr. Seuss; Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination,” by Brian Jay Jones.)
In a visit to the Whoville Gallery, you’ll see life-size figures of the Grinch and Max, and a magnetic ball wall interactive of shoots, spinners and tubes to get the Grinch down from Mount Crumpit to Whoville in time to save Christmas Day!
HOW TO GO
What: “How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical,” presented by Dayton Live
Where: Benjamin and Marian Schuster Center, 1 West Second Street, Dayton
When: Nov. 14 -19; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday
More info: https://www.daytonlive.org/events/grinch
- Background on Broadway. Sixty minutes before each performance you can learn about the development, history, and artistry of the show. This free event is held in the Schuster Center’s fourth floor lobby. You must have a ticket to that day’s performance.
- Bagels & Broadway. Ever wonder what it takes to prepare a stage for a show? This free program will be held from 8:30-10:30 a.m. at the Schuster Center Tuesday, November 14. Have a cup of coffee and a bagel – then watch the show’s crew and members of IATSE Local 66 set up the sights and sounds. The event is free but you must register at daytonlive.org!