“Grinch” at PPAC is a Family-friendly Delight

By Kimberly Rau

Faster than we know it, the holiday season is upon us, and with it comes the tour of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas – The Musical” at the Providence Performing Arts Center. If you’re looking for something fun to do with the kids this weekend, this sugar cookie of a show is the perfect way to welcome the Christmas spirit.

Recap, in case you don’t know the classic Dr. Seuss story: The Grinch lives alone above Whoville, a town of little people – well, Whos – who embrace Christmas like no one else. The festivities, consumerism and noise drive the Grinch crazy, and he decides he’s had enough once and for all, and opts to steal Christmas. He nearly succeeds, too, stripping Whoville of all physical manifestations of the holiday. Of course, in the absence of gifts and decorations, the true spirit of Christmas shines through, and it’s a merry holiday for one and all.

It’s worth noting that despite what he says, the Grinch doesn’t seem to hate Christmas so much as he hates the sensory overload that his neighbors force upon him annually, a tidal wave of nearly toxic positivity that grows exponentially each year. This is somewhat more subtle in the book, and even the cartoon, but on stage it’s enough to set even the merriest celebrant’s teeth on edge just a little, so it’s hard to blame our green friend. Not that you’d justify theft as a result, but fortunately for him, the Whos are a forgiving bunch.

Directed by Matt August, this colorful musical features whimsical costumes and sets straight out of the children’s book. It’s narrated by Max, the Grinch’s dog, now older and looking back on his puppyhood and that fateful Christmas Eve. Bob Lauder as old Max has the honor of singing the iconic “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” and his bass voice is perfection.

Anthony Cataldo is a most entertaining Grinch, a mix of sinister and humorous that hits all the right notes. His sidekick, young Max, is played equally well by Alberto Luis Blanco O.V. And Vivian Atencio is an adorable and charming Cindy Lou Who, with a clear, strong, pretty voice that’s just right for the role.

This is a show that doesn’t stray far from the source material, and doesn’t try to be something it’s not. That’s a good thing. The songs are cute, but not complicated. The plot is simple and easy to follow. It’s rare that you find a musical that has quality production values and is good for the entire family, but this is one of them. The audience on press night spanned the gamut from very small children to grandparents, and everyone was well-entertained. As a bonus, “Grinch” runs just under an hour and a half with no intermission, perfect for even the shortest attention spans.

Christmas may not be about what presents are under the tree or how brightly you decorate your house, but if you’re looking for a fun afternoon out that will delight the your kids and help you welcome December, you can’t go wrong with this musical take on a holiday favorite.

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas – the Musical” runs through Dec. 3 at the Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset St., Providence. Tickets may be obtained at the box office, online at ppacri.org or by calling 401.421.2787.