Vikings star receiver Justin Jefferson is getting a wee salute from an unexpected player. The Grinch is performing the Griddy, the celebratory dance that Jefferson made famous, onstage at the Children's Theatre. It's as surprising as it is hilarious.
The churchlike happy dance is among several updates that director Peter Brosius uses to freshen his revival of "Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas," which opened Saturday in Minneapolis. The production, which again stars Reed Sigmund as the mean, green holiday grouch, is delightfully entertaining.
It has some beautiful performances, including by Elsa Dungan-Hawks as Cindy Lou Who. Her sunshine-y delivery of "Santa for Christmas Day," which sounds like it could be in "Annie," is a heartwarming showstopper. Audrey Mojica, who plays Young Max, also tugs at the heartstrings with her gorgeous rendition of "One of a Kind." And Dean Holt invests narrator Max with kindness and joy.
Amid all the warmth, wit and antics, Dr. Seuss' story remains one of reconciliation and coming into community. Isolated in his cave save for his much-abused dog Max, the snarling Grinch looks down on Who society. He scorns their sincerity, their earnestness, their joy. It's as if he's a postmodern figure from the age of cynicism and the Whos, toddling around like bowling balls on stilts (David Kay Mickelsen did the costumes), are pre-modern innocents.
When the Grinch finds himself in the middle of a Who gift-shopping reverie, he looks around slowly, then bellows suddenly. It's enough to frighten tykes in the audience, let alone the Whos onstage, trembling rhythmically.
Sigmund is over-the-top mean as the Grinch, but his is a cartoonish venality. When the Grinch grows his heart to its right size — thanks to the sincerity of both Cindy Lou Who and Young Max — it's as if the cartoon transforms into a human being.
Brosius and Sigmund last teamed up on "Grinch" in 2018, a halcyon pre-COVID era when gathering in groups didn't elicit dread. The political culture then had a different cast of joy-stealing figures, which meant that the show, and the Grinch's behavior, resonated differently.
Brosius tries for a sense of normalcy in his staging. The Who first family, including Mama Who (Autumn Ness) and JP Who (Dwight Xaveir Leslie), waddles into the audience for a moment to introduce themselves at the lip of the stage. The Grinch also scurries deep into the house for a sporting element with Young Max.
At another moment, the whole cast lines the walls of the house, delivering beautiful, heartwarming melodies in surround sound. COVID schmovid.
"Grinch" wears its sentimentality proudly. And that sweetness is helped along by the music, conducted with panache and tugging emotionality by Victor Zupanc. Linda Talcott Lee's dances, including a big Broadway-style number, put the show over the top.
Over at the Guthrie Theater, Scrooge has his ghosts to guide him into becoming a human being. At the Children's Theatre, it's Cindy Lou Who whose innocence and faith in the Grinch helps an isolated figure come in from his self-imposed exile.
That's enough to melt the coldest of hearts.
'Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas'
Who: Music by Mel Marvin, book and lyrics by Timothy Mason. Choreography by Linda Talcott Lee. Directed by Peter Brosius.
When: 7 p.m. Thu.-Fri., 11 a.m. & 2 p.m. Sat., 2 & 5 p.m. Sun., 2 & 7 p.m. next Wed. Ends Jan. 8.
Where: Children's Theatre, 2400 3rd Av. S., Mpls.
Tickets: $15-$89. 612-874-0400 or childrenstheatre.org.
Protocol: Masks encouraged.