I’ve been feeling a lack of Christmas cheer. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t found anywhere to stream Elf (while I do own a copy, I don’t own a DVD player). Or it could be the result of a contentious election and the distinct whiff of apocalypse in the air. Either way, my usual festive giddiness has been missing.
Nevertheless, I braved the Manchester monsoon and headed to see the highly anticipated musical, Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! at The Lowry in Salford. Across the pond, the production broke box office records on Broadway and received rave reviews, so I had high hopes that it would inspire some festive feels.
While we’re probably most familiar with the 2000 film starring Jim Carrey (or perhaps the 2018 animated version), the musical is based on the much loved 1957 book by Dr. Seuss – a text that is nicely alluded to at the beginning of the show.
The story takes place in Whoville, an idyllic town filled with laughter, love and a fondness for yuletide revelry, and follows the calculating Grinch who, feeling ostracised from the Whos, decides to steal Christmas in a bid to make the merrymaking stop (I can’t lie, there was a tiny part of me that felt for the Grinch when he lamented his noisy neighbours because mine don’t seem to understand the concept of inside voices). Griff Rhys Jones is brilliant as narrator Max the Dog as he looks back on his younger self (played by Matt Terry of X Factor fame). While the concept works well, the duo’s musical numbers did occasionally fall flat.
It’s a vibrant, loud show which perfectly captures the often chaotic build up to the big day. There’s a slightly manic shopping scene that’s reminiscent of the Manchester Arndale on Christmas Eve. But the Who chorus, and their compulsion to belt out exuberant musical numbers declaring their love of Christmas, are a delight to watch. Their costumes are visually stunning (think bubble-gum pink, rounded tums and pointed shoes), the choreography spot on and their happiness is infectious. The set is exactly as I hoped – straight out of a Dr. Seuss book with black and white props that look like they’ve been sketched onto the stage alongside Christmas lights and decorations galore.
The stand-out performances are The Grinch and Cindy Lou Who. Edward Bakery-Duly is brilliant in the titular role, delivering the part with sarcasm, sauce and excellent comic timing. From the moment we see his famously skinny, green fingers tapping at the entrance to his cave, we’re captivated. Bakery-Duly plays the role in an extremely Carrey-esque manner and does not disappoint. But the real show stopper is eight-year-old Isla Gie as Cindy Lou. Not only is she unbelievably adorable, she has real stage presence and can bloody well belt out a tune for someone so small. She’s definitely one to watch.
It’s an astounding performance and probably the best Christmas show I’ve seen to date. For a few hours, I escaped the sinking feeling in my stomach and yielded to festive cheer. Much like the Grinch whose heart eventually grew three sizes bigger, I left feeling full of yuletide spirit (well, until I got home and went on Twitter, that is).
So, if you’re feeling battered by recent events, you’d do well to head to The Lowry and watch Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! After all, what better message for us to cling to, when things seem uncertain and bleak, than a tale of the healing power of love, community and belonging.
Images by Manuel Harlan
Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical is on at The Lowry in Salford until January 5, 2020.