Theater Review: Merry Grinchmas!

Chad Young / November 23, 2015

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical
Nov. 20 – Dec. 27 (All ages)
Grand Ole Opry House
2800 Opryland Drive, Nashville
615-889-1000 •
Days and showtimes vary
Tickets: $24.99 – $89.99


Stephen Bishop at The Grinch and Aleksa Kurbalija as Young Max. Photo credit: Chris Hollo.

Gaylord Opryland Resort’s annual “A Country Christmas” celebration is finally here for 2015, and among the anticipation is one of its brightest new additions — Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical playing through the season at the legendary Grand Ole Opry House (never fear, Opry fans, the weekly country music show’s back at the Ryman through the end of December).

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For years, the theatrical show for “A Country Christmas” has been the phenomenal Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular, and when Opryland announced last year that 2014 was the final season for the high-kicking ladies in Music City, eagerness grew regarding what we’d get this year.  The folks at Opryland certainly picked the best family-friendly holiday show to take the stage this year. Grinch is a dazzling, gorgeous, 90-minute journey through one of Seuss’ most beloved tales.

The Grinch story is remarkably timeless — the book first hit shelves in 1957 before it became an animated holiday TV classic nearly a decade later in 1966 (and it became a live action movie starring Jim Carrey in 2000).  This Broadway musical breathes an exciting new life into the story and the characters (they’re fleshed out quite a bit more with this stage version) … it’s undeniable fun to experience whether you’re 2 or 92.


Photo credit: Chris Hollo.

Broadway actor Stephen Bishop stars as the infamous green monster whose “heart is two sizes too small.” Bishop’s huge stage presence and talent gives lots of Grinchy flair to the character. He’s extremely animated, and Bishop beautifully presents the Grinch’s journey and evolution from a meanie to a kind-hearted creature who embraces the underlying theme in Seuss’ story — that Christmas is so much more than packages with bows and giant feasts; it’s about love, peace and family togetherness as the citizens of Whoville finely demonstrate on Christmas morning despite all their material things having been stolen.  A humorous aside about Bishop’s performance: Kids of all ages will find amusement at how much he inadvertently spits when he sings — it’s funny to notice if you’re sitting on the front row like we were, and oddly enough it actually adds a little zest to the character!

Old Max the dog (W. Scott Stewart) narrates the story and also lends his fine bass/baritone vocals to the show’s signature musical number, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Stewart’s performance is an endearing one as is his pup counterpart, Aleksa Kurbalija as Young Max. Kurbalija delivers a lot of high energy on stage and brings succinct innocent charm to the tale.

The citizens of Whoville include vibrant performances including Papa Who (Timothy Allen), Mama Who (Mia Rose Lynne), Grandpa Who (Christopher Strand) and Grandma Who (Vicki White) along with a large cast of fellow townspeople and children. The standout member of Whoville, however, is Cindy-Lou Who, an alternating role shared by Nicole Scimeca and Samantha. Scimeca presents a spot-on portrayal of this unforgettable character and does an outstanding job of melting the Grinch’s tiny heart to the point that it blossoms three times bigger. If you catch one of Bray’s performances, it’s of interest to note that she’s a second grader from Memphis!


Nicole Scimeca as Cindy-Lou Who. Photo credit: Chris Hollo.

The show includes 18 memorable musical numbers backed by an impressive live orchestra, including the ones we’re familiar with from the classic TV special.

John Lee Beatty’s spectacular set design honors the integrity of the book’s illustrations — it’s as if those images magically jumped out of the pages of the book onto the stage … FANTASTIC! Likewise, Robert Morgan’s costumes enhance the shaping of each character while adding bursts of color to the stage.

The dialogue keeps Seuss’ trademark rhyme scheme intact, and there’s so much funny stuff along the way that entertains adults as much as it humors kids. Bishop’s impeccable comedic timing really shines during the Grinch’s disdain over a ballad at the beginning of Cindy-Lou’s “Santa for a Day” number. Fun special effects adorn the production, and it doesn’t matter how old are young you are, when it starts snowing inside the Opry House over the audience, it’s just awesome Christmas magic!

There’s a bevy of holiday happenings around town this season for your family entertainment options, and if you’re able to pick only one, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical is the one you truly won’t want to miss! This magical theater experience is sure to make your heart grow three times bigger, too.

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