Post image for Theater Review: DR. SEUSS’S HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! THE MUSICAL (The Old Globe)

by Dan Zeff on November 13, 2023

in Theater-San Diego


I attended a recent late afternoon performance of the Old Globe holiday production of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas with some trepidation. I braced myself for mingling among restless children fidgeting in their seats while their adult keepers periodically shushed them to maintain some semblance of order.

Tommy Martinez as Young Max and Andrew Polec as The Grinch

Not to worry. The full house of both young and adult attendees was clearly enjoying 90 uninterrupted minutes of pleasure, laughing at how a shaggy green critter called the Grinch tries his darndest to spoil the Christmas of the residents of Whoville by stealing their presents before they could be opened on Christmas morning. Aside from a few youngster bathroom exits, the attentive audience was a model of decorum following the Grinch as he did his dirty work.

(center) Andrew Polec as The Grinch with the cast

The Grinch character has a long and honored history in modern holiday literature. He was introduced in a 1957 children’s book (which has now sold more than 65 million copies worldwide) and has starred in several versions that include TV shows and movies (both live and animated).

(center) Andrew Polec as The Grinch with the cast

The live-action adaptation includes swatches from other Grinch productions but leans most heavily on the 1994 book and lyrics written by Timothy Mason and music by Mel Marvin in 1994. My only quibble is that the Old Globe production doesn’t have more of the delightful rhyming couplets that make the original text such a joy. But otherwise, no complaints.

Andrew Polec as The Grinch

The headliner of the production is Andrew Polec, now in his third year as the Grinch. Polec wears a shaggy green costume that makes him look like a monster out of a 1950s sci-fi B-movie. He plays his role with enormous verve, his Grinch clearly having a great time stealing the Christmas gifts from the cute people of Whoville. The Grinch repents his villainy at the end, but I enjoyed the nasty person more as he gleefully created mischief among the lovable Whoville-ians.

Bets Malone as Grandma, Ariella Kvashny as Mama,
Noah Rivera as Papa, Larry Raben as Grandpa

The playbill lists almost 40 performers in the show, including understudies, a very large cast for a children’s play. Polec is the star, but young and adult first-rate supporting actors abound.

Iris Manter as Cindy-Lou Who and Andrew Polec as The Grinch

The stunner is Iris Manter as young Cindy-Lou Who, who belts her songs like a Broadway pro and acts cute without being cutesy. It’s an extraordinary all-around performance by any actress, much less one who is ten years old, and the audience ate her up. Manter splits the role with Arden-Elise Johnson. I couldn’t assess Johnson’s performance, but if she is as good as Manter, and she well might be, the production is twice blessed.

Andrew Polec as The Grinch with the Little Who Ensemble

The show is performed in the largest of the Old Globe theaters and the show’s designers have taken full advantage of the wide proscenium to fill the horizontal and vertical viewing space with masses of colorful costumes and scenery. I don’t recall a play intended primarily for children displaying such visual and aural richness. So, unreserved praise goes to the creativity of John Lee Beatty (scenic design), Robert Morgan (costume design), Pat Collins (lighting design), Melanie Chen Cole (sound design), and Elan McMahan (music director).

Tommy Martinez as Young Max and Steve Gunderson as Old Max

Leading the backstage brain trust are James Vásquez, the director, and John Deluca and Bob Richard, choreographers. It’s wondrous what they have accomplished with such a large cast, especially working with a considerable number of child performers, many very young.

photos by Jim Cox

Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The Old Globe
Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage
1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park
Tuesday through Sunday, with daily schedules varying
ends on December 31, 2023
for tickets (starting at $49), call 619.234.5623 or visit The Old Globe

Arden Elise Johnson as Cindy-Lou Who and Andrew Polec as The Grinch

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ciara November 16, 2023 at 2:35 pm

Thanks for the great review. I was also at the afternoon opening show this past Sunday 11/12 and thought the show was tremendous. Iris Manter played Cindy-Lou Who in that show, and her performance was beyond impressive. What great casts The Old Globe has this year!


Milo Shapiro December 3, 2023 at 11:11 pm

It’s great that your first viewing of it came later in its years of running. For a very long time, the pivotal song “Abu Dore” (which is so strongly associated with the story now) was not made available to The Globe. It was still a terrific show, but always felt like that little piece was missing. Thankfully, that issue was resolved a number of years ago and I’m glad you enjoyed your first bite of Roast Beast along with the classic melody.


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