The Grinch and Cindy Lou on Christmas Eve (from a 2016 US Touring production)

Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical

The Alexandra Theatre


What a glorious, fun Christmas cracker the Alex has served up with Theodor Seuss Geisel’s festive children’s tale about the curmudgeonly Grinch, a man . . . thing . . . creature . . . who knows – except the one thing we all know  . . . he hates Christmas

Dr Seuss tales have been round before, but usually as modest budget, daytime morning and matinee shows aimed squarely at young children, but the grumpy old Grinch has been given the full Broadway musical treatment, and boy, does it show.

This is slick, polished and very professional entertainment for the whole family. Remarkably it is 62 years since the Grinch first rhymed his way down to Whoville with a couple of animated features and a 2000 film staring Jim Carey along the way.

And it is the Grinch, in the green spiky shape of Edward Baker-Duly who is the star of this magical show. He is the baddy, the thing who hates Christmas and wants to stop it, he is deliciously evil and cruel - he is even nasty to his faithful dog Max, played in some style by X-Factor’s Matt Terry, and that is a real no-no . . .

The only problem is that despite his billing, bad-boy reputation and general meanness, we sort of like him; after all he is funny, witty, plays to the audience and Baker-Duly gives us a masterclass in musical theatre comedy with a fine voice to boot, as in One of a Kind.

The Grinch has some great lines and asides, my favourite comes as Cincy Lou Who, the tiny tot who finds him pretending to be Santa, melts his icy heart just a fraction, holds his hand and starts to sing Santa For A Dayleaving the Grinch desperately fighting off sentimentality and despairing “Oh no, it’s a ballad”. A real musical theatre joke.

Young Max and Old Max

Cindy Lou, incidentally, is played by one of four youngsters with eight-year-old Isla Gie in the role on Press night, and quite brilliant she was too. A voice clear as a bell, hitting every note with ease and showing all the pathos and emotion the role demands. A young lady and a name to look out for.

There is good support from Steve Fortune as Old Max, the Grinch’s dog now grey and ancient, acting as narrator and telling us the tale of long ago when the Grinch had a heart two sizes too small.

Then we have the Who family Grandma, Karen Ascoe, Grandpa, David Bardsley, Mama. Holly Dale Spencer and Papa, Alan Pearson along with a whole village ensemble from Whoville.

The show is also helped by a big orchestra by touring standards, 10 strong under musical director Richard John, who bring extra life and vitality to every song.

John Lee Beatty’s set pays homage to Seuss’s illustrations in his original book with Robert Morgan’s costumes adding to the illusion that you were seeing the characters on the page brought to life – the Who’s were an odd shaped lot to be honest . . .

Behind the book is a sort of morality tale, decrying the commercialisation of Christmas with its emphasis on ever more, expensive presents. But it is also a personal tale. The Grinch tells us that he has hated Christmas for 53 years, which, incidentally, was the age of Dr Seuss when he wrote and published the book, while in the same year, 1957, Seuss wrote : "I was brushing my teeth on the morning of the 26th of last December when I noticed a very Grinch-ish countenance in the mirror. It was Seuss! So, I wrote about my sour friend, the Grinch, to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I'd lost."

It is a magical Christmassy show for the whole family, which is not to say it is not without fault. Opening with a local celebrity – and to be honest I have no idea who it was - reading an oversize book to a group of youngsters plucked from the stalls just didn’t work. Jackanory it wasn’t. It’s only advantage I suppose, being that whatever followed had to be better.

It's a slick show, so if you are going to have a downbeat opening, it needs to be equally slick, and this wasn’t.

But don’t let the start put you off a fine show, it is glitzy, full of Broadway razzmatazz, fun, with catchy songs and youngsters in the audience – from tots to those young at heart (a nice way of saying ancient) loved every minute. A real Christmas treat. To 07-12-19

Roger Clarke


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