By Kimberly Rau
There’s never any shortage of holiday-themed theater in Rhode Island, with something different for just about everyone’s tastes, but “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” at PPAC is one of the most fun, and family friendly, choices out there this season.
Everyone loves a good redemption tale, and, besides Scrooge himself, who’s a better Christmas-centric example than this iconic Dr. Seuss villain? Pea-green and small-hearted, the Grinch lives on the mountain that overlooks Whoville, populated by small, endlessly cheerful little people who make Clark Griswold look understated in the Christmas department. Mr. Grinch, rather than popping in some ear plugs and tuning out for the month of December, decides he’s going to steal Christmas. In case you, somehow, have managed to tune out this story that became a television classic in 1966, he’s almost successful, but in the end, the true spirit of Christmas wins out.
The original Christmas special clocked in at 26 minutes. This theatrical piece is longer at around an hour and a half (no intermission), and while some of the songs seem a bit like filler, overall, this is a fun, crowd-pleasing piece that manages to give you a sense of why the Grinch hates Christmas so much (is it Christmas, though, or just the obnoxious neighbors?) and still capture the true meaning of the season.
The show is narrated by the elderly dog Max, who was but a stay puppy when the Grinch essentially enslaves him and ropes him into doing his dirty work. Bob Lauder, who plays the older canine, has the perfect bass voice for the iconic “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” His counterpart, Jared Starkey, who embodies the younger Max, is springy and funny and just right for the role. And then there’s Philip Huffman as the Grinch himself, which is a role that requires a surprisingly wide range of vocal ability and comic timing. Huffman takes it all in stride, never once giving the appearance that this is anything other than a (mean-spirited) romp in the park for him. With a set that looks like it’s right out of a Seuss storybook and a full, lively orchestra, audiences are in for a fun hour and a half.
In short, The Grinch is a fluffy, fun, heartwarming holiday show that is going to entertain the young and young at heart, and may even warm the hearts of the most stodgy of Grinches on your own Christmas list.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas runs through Dec. 22 at the Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset St., Providence, RI. Tickets may be obtained at the box office, online at ppacri.org, or by calling 401-421-2787.