Having brought back the live musical event, NBC offers a scaled-back Christmas confection with “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical!” – a not-live (and not-very-good) stage production, starring Matthew Morrison (“Glee”) as you-know-who, or rather, he-knows-Whos.
Staged at the Troubadour Theater in London, the presentation was playful, colorful and visually inventive, from the storybook backgrounds to having Morrison’s Grinch break the fourth wall early on, demonstrating his cruelty by insulting the home audience’s ugly couches. Take that, America.
The songs, though, are unmemorable, other than the few cribbed from the original animated classic. And even with a whole lot of commercials padding out the two hours, the show felt bloated and flat, with scant sense of the magic in all the fluff employed to flesh out the Grinch’s journey from Christmas-stealing curmudgeon to his the spirit-of-the-holiday epiphany.
The staging hands off the narrator duties to an older version of the Grinch’s dog Max (Denis O’Hare), played by Booboo Stewart (Disney’s “Descendants”) as a younger mutt.
The show, of course, felt aimed heavily at the younger part of a family audience, with the hope that parents would be happy to share a theatrical-style experience with them, especially now.
Morrison clearly threw his all into vamping things up, even before enduring the lengthy application of that bright-green makeup. Amelia Minto, the tyke cast as Cindy-Lou Who, also exhibited a fine voice.
Still, the irreverence of Jim Carrey’s live-action movie (a little of which goes a long way) loomed larger than the wonderful economy of the Chuck Jones animated special, which might explain a gratuitous flatulence gag.
In one song about gift giving the ensemble croons “It’s the thought that counts,” and there’s something to be said for that mentality here. Even with the explosion of viewing options, it’s nice to see the broadcast networks take chances trying to create some new holiday fare, rather than just run the sprockets off the usual suspects.
Still, “The Grinch Musical!” certainly didn’t earn its exclamation point, or do anything to make a cranky critic’s too-small heart grow one size, much less three. So while it’s a bit tired, perhaps, to say it in rhyme, this Grinch, alas, wasn’t worth the time.