KPBS AIRDATE: December 15, 2006
Well, the Globe is all decked out for the holidays. There’s Who-Stuff behind every bush, the Grinch is peaking out over the buildings, and a big new Christmas tree is taking center stage in the plaza. Indoors, the Globe’s two theaters are serving up family-friendly confections. It’s the 9th year for the Grinch, and the 16th for La Pastorela. Both have a long history before and beyond the Globe.
Former San Diegan Dr. Seuss, AKA Ted Geisel, created the Grinch when he was, as the Grinch professes to be, 53. That was in 1957. The holiday perennial was made even more famous by the MGM TV special, which was produced in 1966. The Grinch song from the film was so unforgettable that the Globe ultimately added it to their show, whose music was composed by Mel Marvin, with book and lyrics by Timothy Mason. The supplementary rhymes don’t hold a candle to Geisel’s originals. But the story remains intact: how the Green Meanie got his heart to grow three sizes one Christmas eve, thanks to irresistible little Cindy-Lou Who. Even without presents, which the Grinch has stolen to sabotage Christmas, the ever-chipper Whos celebrate the holiday with joy.
While the Grinch holds forth on Broadway, to massive audiences if not unanimous critical acclaim, there are many new local performers in the San Diego version of the show, originally directed by Jack O’Brien. Everyone is fine, but no one is a knockout, except for Skylar Starrs Siben, who alternates in the role of Cindy-Lou. Jay Goede isn’t very scary or even that nasty as the Grinch, but he wields his unwieldy fingers like Edward Scissorhands. At least he isn’t loathsome like Jim Carey’s onscreen Grinch. The ensemble is lively and energetic and the songs are pleasant, if not memorable. The best part is always watching the kids lap it all up. They’re quiet; they’re rapt; they’re totally into it. And maybe that’ll make them want to come back to the theater again. Now that’s a holiday gift that keeps giving.
Meanwhile, next door on the Cassius Carter Centre Stage, it’s the Angels vs. the Devils in “La Pastorela de la Estrella,” presented by Teatro Máscara Mágica, written by Max Branscomb and directed by William Virchis. This B-side of the Christmas story focuses on the pastores or shepherds, and pits good against evil, temptation against salvation. The text, written in rhyme, ranges from political (though less incisively than in previous years) to downright silly. The singalongs veer wildly from “Feliz Navidad” to “YMCA.” As the Archangel Michael battles Lucifer and his henchmen, appearances are made by the dated and the dead: from Selena to the Blues Brothers.
It’s all in good fun while, like the Grinch, re-affirming the reason for the season. It’s a kid-friendly Christmas in Balboa Park.
©2006 Patté Productions Inc.