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THEATER REVIEW: “Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas!”

The weather’s turner colder. It must be time for the reappearance of His Grinchiness at The Old Globe.

Yes, it’s the 16th incarnation of this happy holiday tradition back to amuse, annoy, perhaps even scare but most of all to touch our hearts with the possibility of change and human (well, sort of) connection.

“How The Grinch Stole Christmas!” plays Tuesdays through Fridays through Dec. 28, with three shows a day on weekends. James Vásquez directs and restages the choreography, as he has since 2003.

Continuing a new tradition started last year, a special autism-friendly performance on Dec 14 at 10:30 am will serve children and adults on the autism spectrum with this lovely show.

You remember the story: the Grinch’s now aged dog Old Max (Steve Gunderson) returns for one last look at the old place before he retires and moves on. He recalls those days when his master, the distinctly unjolly green giant Grinch (Steve Blanchard) took him to live in that frigid Mt. Crumpit cave and forced him to help in his nefarious plan to stop Christmas from coming to Whoville below.

You see, it’s the joy he finds among those Whos he can’t stand. They all seem so – well, happy, especially at this time of year. It’s downright depressing.

So he ties some (stolen) antlers on Young Max (Jeffrey Schecter)’s head, hitches him to a rickety sleigh and steals into Whoville in the dead of Christmas Eve night to grab all the gifts and decorations. Surely this will end Christmas forever.

But an unexpected visit from little Cindy-Lou Who (the adorable Taylor Coleman the day I saw it) melts that hairy green guy’s Grinchiness with winsomeness and before you know it, his poor shriveled heart has grown three sizes.

The show, with music by Mel Marvin, book and lyrics by Timothy Mason (with additional music by Albert Hague and additional lyrics by Dr. Seuss himself) features fine performances, crazy costumes, sprightly choreography, cute songs and lots of good will.

That’s why it’s a holiday tradition.

Blanchard, back for his third Grinch, has this role down pat and he’s not only mean but ugly, with that long, mossy hair and fingernails out to there. But he cleans up pretty well and manages to look almost fetching as a Duke-imitating visitor from “Whoston.” And he can sing, dance and crack a joke with the best of them.

Coleman (an adorable 7-year-old) is totally winning as Cindy-Lou. The Grinch’s grouchiness doesn’t have a chance around this pint-sized dynamo.

Gunderson’s Old Max and Schecter’s Young Max are perfect as the main recipients of the daily meannness finally freed by the Grinch’s change of heart.

The main supporting cast – veterans Geno Carr (Papa Who) and Eileen Bowman (Grandma Who) and show newcomers Kürt Norby (Grandpa Who) and Bets Malone (Mama Who) are excellent, as is the large ensemble.

This year’s “Who-chestra”, capably led by Elan McMahan, makes the charming songs sound as good as ever.

Bravo (again) to set designer John Lee Beatty, costumer Robert Morgan, as well as Pat Collins and Paul Peterson, lighting and sound designers, respectively. Joshua Rosenblum’s vocal arrangements and incidental music are fine, as is the dance music arranged by David Krane.

It’s almost impossible to imagine Christmas in San Diego without “Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas!” So grab the kids (and the adults) and go.

>b?The details

“Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas!” plays through Dec. 28 at The Old Globe’s Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park.

Tuesday through Friday at 7 pm; Saturday and Sunday at 11 am; 2 and 5 pm.

Tickets: (619) 234-5623 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.