The Grinch Musical is corporate garbage

Has the over-commercialization of Christmas gone too far?


David Cotter/NBC

Matthew Morrison’s excellent performance as the Grinch isn’t enough to save this musical.

One of the largest problems with modern Christmas is the commercialization. Christmas has become all about purchasing gifts, and has subsequently become one of the most stressful times of the year.

This was a problem Dr. Seuss tried to tackle in his classic children’s book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. In the book, the titular grouch and his pooch, Max, steal all the Whos’ gifts in an effort to ruin Christmas. He realizes the true meaning of Christmas when he sees that the Whos are happy regardless of gifts. He learns that Christmas is about more than just gifts and objects: it’s about the people we share it with.

So, of course, the fine folks at NBCUniversal have decided to turn this property into two feature films. And not only have these adaptations completely missed the point of the origninal book, they have also been bad at worst (Jim Carrey) and mediocre at best (Illumination).

These adaptations completely missed the point of the original book.”

One would think that after lukewarm critical and audience reception, they would stop pumping out Grinch adaptations. Unfortunately, the opposite is true, and this time it’s a musical.

The Grinch Musical features Matthew Morrison of Glee fame as the titular character. It also features Denis O’Hare as Old Max/the narrator, BooBoo Stewart as Young Max, and Amelia Minto as Cindy Lou Who. And yes, you read that correctly. The narrator is the Grinch’s dog.

The musical follows mostly the same plot as the book, although it does have a few key alterations. In this adaptation, the Grinch only decides to “steal Christmas” after he sees a sign made by Cindy Lou which mistakenly says “Merry Christmas Fiend” instead of “Merry Christmas Friend.” The musical also gives the Grinch a subplot about feeling alone. Cindy Lou is also catalyst that starts the Grinch on the road to good, letting him know that he is never really alone.

In my opinion, these changes actually enhance the plot. It gives the Grinch some motivation and characterizes Cindy Lou much better than the movies tried to.

It’s hard to tell who is more evil: the Grinch or the executives who signed off on this? (David Cotter/NBC)

However, these changes also deemphasize the anti-commercialism theme of the original. The Grinch now realizes the errors of his ways by learning that he is loved, not by learning that Christmas is about more than gifts. This is especially ironic, considering that this musical was little more than a cash grab.

Although the story changes may enhance the story, there are several other changes that do not. The musical takes a lot of inspiration from the Jim Carrey movie, from the costumes to the attempt to flesh out the Grinch’s backstory and Cindy Lou. It also carries over the use of Deadpool-esque forth-wall breaks from the Jim Carrey movie and makes very liberal use of pop culture references. These two gimmicks combine to make the musical feel extremely corporate, and ruin the timeless nature of the original work.

Not only does the musical stumble over its attempts to seem modern, it also fails the most important aspect of a musical: the music. Most of the songs are forgettable duds, with the only memorable song being “One of a Kind,” which is sung by Morrison’s Grinch.

On the other side of the spectrum, the musical completely botches “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” The performances are over-the-top, and it was painful to watch and listen to. This was a cheap attempt at fan service that backfired horribly.

The Grinch’s costume somehow gets even more ridiculous. (

Although the songs may be less than desired, the vocal performances from the cast are great, and the choreography is pretty good. The only noticeable gaffe during the musical numbers was when Cindy Lou was obviously lip-synching during “Santa for a Day.” This, however, is forgivable when one considers that most of these scenes were filmed with just one take, and it was sung by a child actress.

Another area where the musical excels is the set design. The sets are absolutely gorgeous and look like they were taken straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. They create a wonderful sense of nostalgia.

The costumes are mostly good; however, the nose prosthetics that most of the Whos wear are odd-looking and somewhat creepy, venturing into the uncanny value, much like the Jim Carrey film.

Conversely, the direction is mostly poor. Especially during the musical numbers, there would be many, many unnecessary cuts in short periods of time, which completely takes you out of the viewing experience. However, there were several beautiful cuts which swapped between the Whos and the Grinch. This is a technique that could never be achieved in a theater.

The old and young versions of Max are the worst characters in the musical. (

The performances were all good, with the obvious standout being Morrison’s Grinch. He does a great job bringing the character to life. He is a much more believable Grinch than Jim Carrey, who was more off-putting than menacing. Similarly, he does a great job singing.

Other notable performances include both O’Hare and Stewart as Old and Young Max, respectively; however, their performances are notable for the opposite reasons as Morrison. They do the best they can for portraying dogs, but the material they were given is awful. Both Maxes are far and away the worst characters.

One of the worst aspects of the musical was its pacing. The numerous commercial breaks served to effectively murder any sort of momentum it may have had. In fact, the climax of the musical, when the Grinch saves the gifts from falling off Mount Crumpet, cut to commercial and happened completely offscreen. Again, it is darkly ironic that a story that is supposed to be against the commercialization of Christmas cut out regularly to advertise Christmas gifts for five minutes.

Live look at NBC Executives. (digthe60s/Pinterest)

All in all, The Grinch Musical is not the worst thing ever. It isn’t even the worst Grinch adaptation ever: that award would have to go to the awful Jim Carrey version. However, it is nothing more than a cash-grab. It fails as a musical, with many bad and forgettable songs. Despite Matthew Morrison’s best efforts, this is little more than a lifeless corporate cash-grab.

You would be much better off watching the 1966 animated version of the Grinch or to find any other Christmas musical.

Matthew Morrison pulls out his hair, much like the viewers. (David Cotter/NBC)