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If musical theater is an acquired taste, then children’s musical theater is really limited to a particular palate. America took a crash course on this fact thanks to NBC Dr Seuss’ musical The Grinch! broadcast – the first musical adventure of the peacock network since 2018 The superstar of Jesus Christ in concert. While most of these recent live musicals have been aimed at family audiences (give or take Fox’s Rent: Live), Le grinch is the first to target mainly 12 years old and under. This musical adaptation of the Dr. Seuss Christmas classic originated at the Minneapolis Children’s Theater Company in 1994, where it was intended as an airy, immersive 85-minute distraction for children. And while the show has gone on to have a successful seasonal run on Broadway as well as several popular nationwide tours and annual regional productions, the magic it conjures up in the common space of a holiday theater doesn’t translate much into the small screen. .
By far the biggest problem with NBC Grinch is the musical source material itself. Mel Marvin’s painfully no-deal score makes Seussical looks like a masterpiece in comparison, with the show’s only memorable songs from the 1966 and 2000 movie adaptations. And Timothy Mason’s unnecessarily complicated storyline isn’t much better. This version of Le grinch is told by an older version of the Grinch Max dog (Denis O’Hare) reflecting his life as a young puppy (Booboo Stewart) living at the mercy of his furry green owner (Matthew Morrison). The series has few logical character arcs, meaningful themes, or even basic momentum. And between the rhymed dialogue and a whole underdeveloped subplot for Cindy-Lou Who (Amelia Minto) and her multigenerational family, the scattered production could barely enter a narrative groove before another commercial break came to break the flux.
Le grinch didn’t do himself a favor with his cast either. While O’Hare and Stewart are generally reliable charm factories, they both stumbled upon a small dish here – unsure whether to present their performances for the stage or the screen. Morrison, meanwhile, made the bewildering choice of essentially making no choice when it came to putting his mark on Seuss’ big green bad guy. The old one Joy star sort of tried to divide the difference between Jim Carrey’s manic take Live Action Movie from 2000 and the oddly low-key approach of Benedict Cumberbatch 2018 animated adaptation– finally landing on something vaguely Elvis-y and a little Vaudevillian. Mostly, however, it just felt like someone had left Mr. Schue trapped in the choir room for too long. Although Morrison’s singing voice was loud, the Grinch’s whispered close-ups, shattering the Fourth Wall, were nightmare fuel.
There were a few highlights throughout the night including fun costumes, an engaged Who ensemble, and some truly fantastic set design that embraced the illustrated aesthetic of the original book. This production was shot on stage at the Troubadour Theater in London, and it was refreshing to see one of these live-action musicals openly embracing the conventions of theatricality rather than trying to replicate a TV movie experience. The direction of the camera of Julia Knowles well complimented the direction of Max Webster, which is not always acquired with these musical emissions. It probably helped that this one was taped in advance for two days rather than filmed live.
Yet despite all that, Le grinch has never been more than the sum of its fanciful parts. While I’m generally the type to look on the bright side with these TV musicals (I even liked Peter Pan Live!), Le grinch just made me miss the fleeting magic that can only come from actually being in a theater alongside live performers and other audience members. It’s not hard to imagine that fart jokes and the series’ fourth wall fall much more easily when confronted with bursts of laughter from a dizzy young audience happy to be greeted by performers. enthusiastic.
Of course, the pandemic made that experience impossible this year and hopefully young audiences have at least found some of that magic by watching this show from the comfort of their own home (especially watching the show’s set of talented kids absolutely dancing their butts). But with so many other versions of Le grinch Out there it’s hard to imagine this one tops the Christmas list. So quickly forgotten Christmas story live! A musical from a few years ago, it’s a bit of the holiday fleeting that seems destined for the “oh yeah, it happened” pile.
- The Grinch wasn’t the right role for him, but I think Matthew Morrison is a very talented musical theater performer (I’m a huge Light on the Piazza fan) and I wouldn’t mind seeing him return on another music show someday. Maybe as a dentist Small shop of horrors?
- Too many of these Grinch the adaptations fall uncomfortably on the line between “it’s good to be nice to strangers” and “young girls owe wicked men endless forgiveness.”
- That being said, Amelia Minto was a real highlight as a particularly angelic Cindy-Lou.
- I felt very looked after by Cindy’s mom who channeled her holiday season anxiety into making lists.
- Okay, I laughed at the Grinch saying, “I kept my social distance before it was cool.” “