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Playhouse Square production of ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ is a fantasy delight come to life

Ah, the holidays, when the Cleveland theater groups dust off their chestnut productions and audiences once again have visions of sugar plums and Red Ryder BB guns dancing in their collective heads. Along with the usual repeats of A Christmas Carol, A Christmas Story and Santaland Diaries there is a new kid on the Playhouse Square block, as part of the First Merit Bank Diamond Performance Series. That show is Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical that will be on stage at the Connor Palace through December 11, 2016.

Taken from the original animated series (celebrating its 50th anniversary this year) with songs by Albert Hague and Dr. Seuss this faithful stage rendition is the perfect holiday treat that the entire family will enjoy. For starters it has an early weekday 7 p.m. start time with four matinees on Saturday (11 a.m., 2 a.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.) and two shows on Sunday (2 and 5 p.m.). Also, the show runs only 90 minutes and is without intermission.

Old Max (Grinch’s ex-dog) has returned to Whoville to reminisce and thus becomes the narrator for the show. The Grinch is a cave dwelling Meany who hates Christmas because he feels it is all about conspicuous consumption. He is also not too fond of the Whos that live in the valley in sight of his cave entrance. On Christmas Eve he concocts a scheme to swoop down with Young Max and steal every bit of Christmas trappings from the Whos with the plan of hurtling everything from the top of the highest mountain. His plan goes awry when he is discovered by Cindy-Lou Who and a change of heart eventually takes place.

At the opening night of the show, adults were outnumbered at least three to one by the rather well behaved audience of children. While aimed at the booster chair set this production does a fine job entertaining the parents and grandparents as well. The sets (by John Lee Beatty) and costuming (by Robert Morgan) are pure Seussical and the ten songs (with 8 reprises) work extremely well with the story line. Lighting was bright and cheery and Sound was crisp and clear.

The four principles carry the show extremely well. Bob Lauder as Old Max brings a worldly wisdom to the part as he narrates the story. He also does a fine rendition of “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” which is turned into a sing-along during the reprise. Andreas Wyder as Young Max brings a lot of funergy to the role much to the delight of the kiddies in the audience. Julia Rose DiPiazza (alternating with Danielle Guilbot) is all sweetness as Cindy-Lou Who but the real scene stealer is of course the Grinch himself wonderfully portrayed by Philip Bryan. Using amazing vocal skills and various forms of physical humor he is the Grinch personified. His little asides to the audience are priceless.

Being a children’s show it is of course G rated and safe for the entire family.

For those looking for a little variety in their holiday fare this year Grinch is a sure hit that will engage the entire family. The songs, costuming and comedic acting is pure holiday entertainment that will delight the entire family while sneaking in a nice moral tale to boot. See this show before it leaves town.

The 2016 production is directed by Matt August and choreographed by Bob Richard, based on the original choreography by John DeLuca and originally created by three-time Tony Award® winning director, Jack O’Brien.

The rest of the principle cast consists of Vincent DiPeri as Papa Who, Melissa Weisbach as Mama Who, Brian Rooney as Grandpa Who and Barbara Bayes as Grandma Who,

Single tickets are on sale now for Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical at Playhouse Square. Tickets are $10.00 - $80.00 and available online at, by phone at (216) 241-6000 and in person at the Playhouse Square Ticket Office located in the outer lobby of the State Theatre at1519 Euclid Ave. Groups of 10 or more, please call Group Services at (216) 640-8600.

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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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