Globe Grows “The Grinch” And Still Keeps The Joy

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Leila Manuel as Cindy-Lou Who and Andrew Polec as The Grinch in Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, 2021. Photo by Rich Soublet II.

By A.L. Haynes | Contributing Writer

Another San Diego tradition is back, with a facelift and an even more integrated cast. The Old Globe’s annual production of Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas is now playing. After 24 years, some might suspect the show is played out. The refresh this year, however, is worth seeing as it delicately addresses current social concerns of “us” versus “them”, willful ignorance, and innocent prejudice while maintaining a playful, whimsical atmosphere.

Theodor Seuss Geisel, best known as Dr. Seuss, first published How The Grinch Stole Christmas in 1957, writing it into an animated film (complete with song lyrics) that aired in 1966. Geisel was German-American, and was still a child when World War I began. At that time, all things German became despised: German was no longer taught in schools, building names were changed, jobs were lost, people were tarred and feathered, and there is at least one federally confirmed lynching, though several more are suspected.

The sudden and swift prejudice Geisel experienced is ingrained in much of his work, but the emotions he experienced come through especially clearly in How The Grinch Stole Christmas. This year, The Old Globe’s performance has tapped into those emotions and re-highlighted them, with the Grinch (played by Andrew Polec) turning in a particularly nuanced performance.

The main takeaway of this 2021 incarnation of this classic is the need for communication. It is only through getting to know individuals that misunderstandings and stereotypes that lead to “othering” can be overcome. Prejudice is overcome by understanding other perspectives.

As the story unfolds, we clearly see that the Grinch has a different background and life context than the Whos in the nearest town. The Whos are dangerously irresponsible, judging the Grinch by their own mores rather than talking to him to better understand his behaviors and perspectives. For the Grinch’s part, the Whoville celebration has no context; he simply cannot understand “the noise, noise, noise, NOISE!” He, too, makes assumptions that assume nightmarish proportions, as (hilariously) seen throughout the song “Whatchama-who”.

The adults in Whoville pass on their misinformed views, studded with exaggerated fiction, to their children. This is emphasized when Cindy-Lou is strongly discouraged from taking a gift to the Grinch in a way that later gives her nightmares. With the innocence of a young child, when Cindy-Lou meets the Grinch, she has no fear of his appearance or gruff demeanor, and willingly offers him friendship. At the same time, she tells her new friend about her scary dream – a nightmare centered around a dark, uninformed caricature of the Grinch. The Grinch lashes out by seeking to live down to those ideas.

Full Cast of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, 2021 (Left to right)
Row 1: Sophia Adajar, Dempsey Baker, Arya Bosworth, Jacob Caltrider, Bobby Chiu, Juliette Cutugno
Row 2: Alexander Dalton, Leo Ebanks, John Treacy Egan, Patricia Jewel, Corey Jones, Benji Katzke
Row 3: Kyrsten Hafso Koppman, Ariella Kvashny, Bets Malone, Bibi Mama, Leila Manuel, Tommy Martinez
Row 4: Ali Nelson, Andrew Polec, Isabella Pruter, Larry Raben, Christopher M. Ramirez, Bethany Slomka
Row 5: Lance Arthur Smith, Maya Washington, John Perry Wishchuk

Wrapped in playfulness, “The Grinch” somehow manages to address the root causes of prejudice. In many ways a “real life” cartoon, the message is presented in an easy to digest format. The theme is profound: looking at surface differences without getting to know people results in misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and hatred. The presentation is colorful, adorable, light-hearted, and full of fun.

A hilarious romp intertwined with relevant depths, The Old Globe’s annual production of Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas is playing now until December 31st. Be aware that this year, children under three years old will not be admitted and masks are mandatory for everyone. Proof of vaccination or a recent negative CoVid-19 test must be shown for admission. These extra precautions to ensure a safe environment make the experience much more relaxing and enjoyable. Overall, it’s a great, family-friendly outing that can be used to start a conversation or that can be just plain fun.

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