Christopher Pazdernik directs Matthew Lombardo’s 2017 grown-ups-only update of Dr. Seuss’s yuletide classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. On the outskirts of Whoville, in a modest but homey trailer, a very adult Cindy Lou Who recounts her meet-cute with the Grinch and the resulting fallout.
Through 12/26: see website for full schedule, Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, 773-975-8150, theaterwit.org, $18-$35.
Told in a note-perfect imitation of Seuss’s singsong meter, with breaks for off-color jokes, crowd work, and a couple stirring Xmas numbers, this is a hell of a lot more fun than I had expected. I don’t celebrate the holiday and hate musicals, but I loved this show. Most of the credit goes to Veronica Garza, who mugs, heckles, and razzmatazzes her way through a brisk 65 minutes with no one but the audience to play off of. She completely owns a character who’s equal parts salty and sweet. I don’t know whether it was Garza’s, Pazdernik’s, or Lombardo’s choice, but Cindy Lou’s accent—which starts out in Brooklyn, before traveling east to Southie, then turning around and racing down to Baltimore—is a kind of Christmas miracle all its own. Speaking of Baltimore, Cindy Lou’s sculptural coif would’ve made Divine proud.
By the time Garza leads the audience in a sing-along of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” we’re powerless to resist her schmaltzy spell. As an old man I used to know named Bob Caution used to say, “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll kiss five bucks goodbye.” This one deserves to be a wintertime evergreen.