MURRAY — Grouchy-ness, spoofs, and fun run wild in this year’s holiday installment from the Desert Star Playhouse. Playing upon themes from the classic children’s book to poking fun of nearby universities, local celebrities, and even hot-topic news stories, How the Grouch Stole Christmas is a night of melodramatic comedy that all ages can enjoy.
Directed by Scott Holman and Mary Parker Williams, and written by Ben E. Millet and Scott Holman, How the Grouch Stole Christmas follows three young girls (a Who, What, and Why) as they hope to spot the Grouch on the top of Squaw Peak. When the Grouch rears his “ugly” head, panic ensues in their quiet little holiday town. The Mayor, (played by Lee Daily), struggles to keep the peace—and find time to woo Mama Who—as the Grouch continues his nasty plan to steal Christmas while the others try to stop his dastardly deeds.
Having never attending a Desert Star Playhouse production before, I did not know what to expect in terms of the ability of the actors. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed the caricature performances of each cast member as they created humorous characters throughout the play. Mama Who, (played by Brittney Nielson) was simply a hoot to watch. Clearly Nielson understands comedic timing and improvisation as her choices were so in-tune with her character and incredibly outrageous that her fellow actors were struggling to stay in character. Kenny the dog, (played by Todd Michael Thompson) is another actor who created a humorous and enjoyable performance. Thompson knew how to handle theatrical comedy with just the right amount of timing.
As a musical, I was disappointed that most of the singing during the show felt forced and strained. This is odd because after show ended there was a musical review in which the same cast members belted traditional holiday songs, and their voices were strong and healthy. Maybe it was jitters, the presence of the audience, or the keys of each piece during the actual show. Whatever the reason, the singing in How the Grouch Stole Christmas simply fell flat.
In comedy, it has been said to always allow the audience time to laugh. As the cast members wait to continue after a joke has landed, it gives the viewers permission to laugh at the following jokes. There were quite a few times in this show that the actors simply ran over the laughter of the audience—which cut the laughter short and made it difficult to hear the next lines. Thankfully, as the show continued, the cast of this side-splitting spoof-tastic show slowed down their pace and allow the audience to revel in the comedy.
The set and lighting design was simple and well-executed. Scene changes were fast and never affected the timing of the show. The costumes were clear and direct, hardly distracting, and did not disturb the movement of the actors. The sound design was sharp and cohesive, although there were a few pops and cracks toward the beginning of each act, and a couple of missed cues–though they were so few in number I hardly imagine anyone remembered them.
Special mention goes to accompanist of the show. Sadly, his name was not listed in the program. His musical improvisation skills were excellent and outstanding—he never missed a beat. With the help of a keyboard, an upright piano, and drum loops, his talent helped fill the theatre will a full, rich sound.
In all, How the Grouch Stole Christmas is a fun, lighthearted holiday musical that all family members can enjoy—from the littlest Who to the biggest What, this is a night of fun theatre that you won’t want to miss this holiday season.