My last review of 2019 and we are off to Whoville, a place where they like Christmas a lot.
Step forward The Grinch, a mean, green creature who hates the festive season. He also detests the noise associated with Christmas – the singing, the joy, the jubilation, the shopping and the gatherings of people everywhere.
The Grinch then has a wonderful (to him, awful to others) idea to steal Crimbo from the residents of this small and upbeat place. So whilst the residents sleep and dream of stockings filled with presents, he steals everything associated with this time of year, from the Christmas tree, decorations, food and presents.
With help from his loyal dog Max (Matt Terry), he is on to a winner until little Cindy Lou (Isla Gie) finds him dressed as Santa Claus and he thinks he has been caught green handed.
But because this is a sweet little kid, she believes his story that he is there to fix things and give her a great Christmas, instead of half inching it from her neighbourhood.
John Lee Beatty’s set design is simply stunning – cartoonish with a Tim Burtonesque feel to it. It feels like flicking through the famous Dr Seuss books. Every now and then the stage is filled with the garish colours of the residents of Whoville, represented by Tahra Zafar’s beautifully detailed costumes.
The first act of Matt August’s production drags slightly as the concept is incredibly thin and the story is very slight. It is lovely to look at, though, and there is much to delight in from Edward Baker-Duly’s brilliant turn as The Grinch.
The problem is that there is so much screeching and saccharine coming out of Whoville that you end up siding with him and secretly hope that he gets way with his plan.
Act Two is much better as there is more audience participation and the gag count is much higher.
Timothy Mason’s book needs more meat on the bone as it feels as if someone has picked at the turkey in your fridge and you are left with not very much. The songs are incredibly samey and it is hard to distinguish one from the other.
Matt Terry is very talented and in good voice but his role as The Grinch’s shaggy companion feels too underwritten for him to have the impact required.
Griff Rhys Jones plays the older dog, looking back on what happened and he has a good connection with the audience. But again, it feels as if his role is barely on the page.
The cast of upbeat Whoville families are all excellent but they have been asked to have high pitched voices which grate, especially during some of the songs.
It is up to Edward Baker-Duly to bring a sense wicked humour to proceedings and he does so with a real devilish glee. His interaction with the audience is completely natural and he really is worth the ticket price alone.
His Grinch reminds me of Jim Carrey, but not the character you are thinking of. He is more reminiscent of The Mask, whizzing round the stage creating mayhem.
I wish that, narratively speaking, there was more of his plotting because there is a tendency to get to the happy ending too quickly. This means that when he gets to show his teeth, it is often cancelled out by too much sweetness and light.
If some of the schmaltz was balanced out with more naughty antics, this Grinch could steal more than just Christmas. But, if you are a fan of Dr Seuss and his evergreen tale, you will get some of what you came for.
Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical is at The Lowry until 5th January.