Who loves Christmas? The Whos love Christmas. And they certainly know how to win over an audience with their Christmas cheer.
Who-ville is the fictional candy coloured town where even the inhabitants’ tights look like they’ve been pulled straight from a sweet jar. Indeed, it is so saccharine that the grumpy old Grinch can’t stomach watching the community celebrate another happy Christmas and sets about to destroy the fun by stealing the presents, the food and even the Christmas trees.
Why anyone would be so mean is beyond the imagination of the people of Who-ville. So, when little Cindy Lou finds him escaping up the chimney with their Christmas lights, she instantly believes his lie that he is trying to fix them. And here starts the melting of the Grinch’s icy cold heart and with it any bah humbug sentiments in the audience too.
The story is told through the eyes of Mr Grinch’s one trust old-pal – his dog, Max. Griff Rhys Jones plays the old dog recollecting Christmas past, while Matt Terry takes on the young enthusiastic pup who is reluctantly dragged along on Mr Grinch’s mean Christmas-ruining schemes.
John Lee Beatty’s cartoon-inspired sets are wonderful to look at, appearing straight off the pages of a Dr Seuss book. But there is a lot of scene-setting in the first act and the songs sounding quite samey do little to lift this. As my 7-year-old theatre buddy summed it up at the interval, ‘it’s almost good’.
What we needed was a share of the sugar high from our candy cane friends the Whos, and in the second act that is just what we get. Edward Baker-Duly is excellent as the mean old Grinch, but never does he shine more than in the scenes with young Isla Gie as Cindy Lou (one of four young actors to take on the role during the run).
The scenes that follow are both hilarious and truly heart-warming. After the slow-ish start we are now hooked so that when the Grinch’s heart finally grows he has the whole theatre with him shouting, ‘Merry Christmas’. Snow falls from the roof of the auditorium and it feels magical. The ‘almost good’ verdict from young Zach has turned to a top of the lungs cheer. Who loves Christmas at The Lowry – we do!★ ★ ★ ★
Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical is at The Lowry from 12 December to 5 January 2019.