Televised Dr. Seuss musical steals everyone’s sanity


Photo by Adriana Inamagua

The Grinch steals Christmas yet again, but this time in a musical setting.

’Tis the season to be freezing! Are you ready for some nightmare fuel served to you on a plate with a roast beast?

When watching musical theatre, there is a suspension of disbelief that takes place. In musicals like “The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals” a preposterous occurrence happens where a mind-controlling alien is making everyone sing. In Musical Theatre it is welcome to imagine the cardboard scenes as the real thing which is especially true for NBC’s new TV Live Musical. “Grinch the Musical” originally came from the Minneapolis’ Children’s Theatre Company in 1994. From there, it went to Broadway and was successful on the stage for kids 12 and under. However, the translation from stage to TV screen was unsuccessful. 

Originally, the Grinch storybook was famously written & illustrated by Dr. Seuss. The main story of the Grinch is that a green fuzzy old man hates Christmas and wishes to take it away from the townsfolk, who refer to themselves as Whos, below. The tale is an old Christmas classic that many have nostalgia for, so for a lot of people, it’s an important story to get right. 

There are a couple of things that NBC’s live musical adaptation did get right, such as the casting. Denis O’Hare plays old Max, who is the narrator of the story and the only character who breaks the fourth wall in the whole show. Notably, the adult Max is played by Booboo Stewart, who is a delight to watch alongside O’Hare. 

Matthew Morrison—most known for his acting on the TV Show “Glee”—plays the one and only Grinch in this production. 

“I took a lot from Joaquin Phoenix’s performance in ‘Joker’, just going down those steps, like loose and [reveling in] abandon and just carefree and raw,” Morrison said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “I really felt like that was how the Grinch would dance. At first, I was like ‘I don’t think the Grinch dances’; it didn’t feel very Grinch-y, but then I came up with that and it felt right.”. 

Between Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice performance in the animated “The Grinch” falling flat and Jim Carrey’s exciting live-action “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” performance, Morrison’s depiction lies somewhere in between. 

Keeping in mind that the musical’s intended audience is kids, the amount of terrifying close-up shots of the Grinch’s face is going to cause nightmares. 

“And just like that, I’m never sleeping again,” social media personality Heather Concannon said in a tweet

It took three and a half hours to put on the makeup for the Grinch’s costume in the musical, in comparison to the two hours that it took Jim Carrey’s Academy award-winning makeup and hairstyling team. All of the characters had prosthetics to make their noses bigger, while Old Max was given prosthetic jowls. Despite the Grinch’s awful “spy” costume at the beginning of the show, the character outfits & costumes for the rest of the cast were a fun sight for the eyes. Cindy Lou Who’s and Max’s costumes were the best out of the bunch. 

“The best way to wind down after a show is to take off your green makeup with a little @WICKED_Musical,”  Morrison said in a tweet

Though it takes a minute to adjust to all the bright colors and odd prosthetics, it’s easy to settle into and enjoy—all except for the Grinch’s costuming and makeup. Did they succeed in making the Grinch look horrifying and mean? Yes. At what cost? A good night’s rest.

The setting takes place in Whoville along with the Grinch’s cave home. These settings took full inspiration from the original source material and all of the backgrounds are set up in Dr. Seuss’s original style, with his bold circular lines with added hatchwork. The setting is fun and adds to the whimsical nature of the musical itself. The props within the setting were also used in fun ways. During the performance, for instance, all the town children match the wacky music with their kazoos, which made for a comical and adorable musical moment.

The music itself was really nothing special. It was amusing enough watching the musical numbers, but one would find it hard to find anyone going out of their way to just listen to the recording of the show without any of the visuals. The performers singing during the show did the best that they could for lackluster songs. The rendition of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” took place twice and was the best song in the whole show, which was disappointing, considering it wasn’t even an original song to the musical. 

The worst part of the musical wasn’t even the musical itself, but the constant amount of ads throughout the entirety of the show. Let’s set the stage: One song will go, sometimes two if you’re lucky. Then, twelve ads will play before going back to the show. Hopefully, this won’t be such a glaring problem once it releases on Hulu and Peacock, NBC’s streaming app.

Sometimes, musicals are just meant to be seen live or to be made into a movie musical. The musical theatre industry does not have a lot of holiday musicals about anything other than Christmas. One holiday musical to watch that does have representation is “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” on Netflix. It’s still a kids’ movie, but a tooth-achingly sweet one at that. 

But if you’re missing live theater, like so many, despite its faults, “Grinch the Musical” might do the trick; it’s an awful-ly good treat for the whole family.