Old frog eyes is back.
The Grinch, that green-skinned creature with the glowing bulbs, primordial hissing and a knack for being disgusting, is stealing gifts again at the Children's Theatre Company. And he does it all in a manner that still makes you go Eww.
As the antihero in "Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas," which opened over the weekend in Minneapolis, Reed Sigmund gargles milk then spits it back into the cup from whence it came. He delivers a compound burp that sounds like bowling pins crashing into one another in slow motion. And he hops around in his shaggy, mustard-green countenance like a thing that has broken out of its exhibit and is feeling its power.
Yet, when the Grinch meets Cindy-Lou Who (Monica Xiong), he melts and becomes almost civilized — a quiet, domesticated thing that may no longer relish abusing his faithful dog, Young Max (Matthew Woody, who alternates the role with Audrey Mojica).
In staging his last "Grinch" as leader of CTC, Peter Brosius has achieved some longheld desires that he has envied from the TV version of the Seuss classic.
His production features a little scene where the Grinch is driving his sleigh in the air up Mount Crumpit through the night, with his dog using its limbs like wings. It's a fleeting and magical bit of stagecraft.
Brosius has pulled out all the stops for the holiday show, which is briskly paced, boasts more antic dancing by choreographer Linda Talcott Lee and is chock full of small, winning details.
As the show moves toward the much more popular TV version, Brosius also makes good use of the snippet of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," which Dr. Seuss originally composed for his 1966 animated special and which is delivered onstage by Old Max (Dean Holt). That song augments the music of composer Mel Marvin, who collaborated with the late book-writer and lyricist Timothy Mason.
The score, too, feels brisker and more TV-esque. That's partly because of the speed and efficiency of conductor Victor Zupanc (who alternates with Sonja Thompson on baton duties). The music is inflected with jazz and a touch more pizazz to go with the bells and harmonies of the holiday hymns.
Brosius keeps finding new moments for a show that has been a CTC staple for three decades, even if it's beginning to feel like an overstuffed Christmas stocking. But the bigger takeaway is how the story of the Grinch remains, well, evergreen.
Philosophically, the Grinch is a cynical, aggrieved creature who lives up in a mountain cave overlooking Whoville. The Whos from whom he's alienated and whom he reviles, may not actually know why he wants to be up there all by his lonesome, save for Max. They are simple people who do not know anything about guile or irony or a cross word.
In fact, they live so fully in the present, they seem like bouncy puppies, even as they are dressed like tapered barrels or bowling pins. "Grinch" is a cartoon sketch for sure, with its simple premise of evil vs. good. Our world is much more complicated than that. Yet the show offers a wonderful promise that those who are like the Grinch may be able to be welcomed back into community.
As Xiong, who is superb, sings with such a clear voice and pure heart, we are deeply moved. May we all be able to hear such a redemptive song for all lonely, aggrieved souls.
'Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas'
Who: Book and Lyrics by Timothy Mason. Music by Mel Marvin. Directed by Peter Brosius.
Where: Children's Theatre, 2400 3rd Av. S., Mpls.
When: 7 p.m. Tue.-Sat., 2 & 5 p.m. Sun. Ends Jan. 7.
Tickets: $15-$97. 612-874-0400 or childrenstheatre.org.