Even a grinch can enjoy “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical,” but it doesn’t hurt to have a kid in the seat next to you. This brightly wrapped and loudly delivered family entertainment is sure to please the holiday crowds at whom this tour (kicking off in Baltimore) is pitched. The 1957 Dr. Seuss book, 1966 animated TV show and 2006 Broadway musical have accrued legions of fans who qualify as honorary citizens of Whoville, so it seems likely that the Grinch’s change of heart will be observed by many.
However, this brief and intermissionless show still seems a bit thin as stage material. The pleasant score by Mel Marvin and efficient book and lyrics by Timothy Mason convey the Grinch’s Scrooge-like ethical conversion, but are not especially memorable on their own.
It’s telling that the show’s two most delightful songs, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome, Christmas,” were composed by Albert Hague for the ’60s TV special. And so many of the numbers are boisterously reprised that even tykes with the shortest attention spans will realize they’ve heard these tunes recently.
What literally elevates this production is its lanky star, the green fur-covered Stefan Karl, who engagingly snarls, prances and even does a little soft shoe. He shrewdly plays to the house, but then again, so does the entire production.
In such a storybook adaptation, the large cast tends to be defined by Robert Morgan’s colorfully form-distorting costumes. But there are warmly humanized performances, including Walter Charles as the narrating dog Old Max and Aaron Galligan-Stierle as an endearingly fresh-faced and sincere Papa Who.
All that stage traffic in Whoville is deftly handled by director Matt August (stepping in for the production’s original creator-director, Jack O’Brien) across a set by John Lee Beatty, whose cut-out town flats easily roll on and off. Musical and tech credits are smooth, with enough lovely bits of stagecraft to make for a more artfully packaged Christmas present than you might expect.