December 9, 2014

He’s a mean one, Mr. Grinch — but oh, what a charmer! On a Christmas Eve heist of his neighbors, the Whos, he’s joyously wicked and funny and crass. There’s no harm in cheering as he cleans out their house: We know he’ll reform; he’ll bring the stuff back. But really? We’d take his side, no matter what. The strapping man inside the shaggy green suit is the Tony winner Shuler Hensley, and his Grinch is magnificent, a charismatic showman of a menace who will never truly frighten the children. If only he didn’t have to carry the whole production. Mr. Hensley’s strutting, preening performance is by far the best thing about Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, directed by Matt August at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Along with John Lee Beatty’s picture book set and the Whos’ gravity-defying hair (costumes are by Robert Morgan), it’s one of the few elements of this terribly thin 90-minute show that feels genuinely Seussian. The musical, which spent a couple of holiday seasons on Broadway, beginning in 2006, is adapted from a pair of classics: Dr. Seuss’s 1957 children’s book and the 1966 animated television special, which contributes the only memorable songs here, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and the Whos’ anthem “Welcome, Christmas.” The others are by the composer Mel Marvin and the lyricist Timothy Mason, who also wrote the show’s book. The inhabitants of Who-ville, a bell-shaped people attired in candy cane colors, are visually entertaining. So is a snowfall effect over part of the audience close to the stage, though what falls is sticky and will leave hair tangled. But the writing that doesn’t belong to Dr. Seuss, including an entire song about shopping, is undistinguished.