How 'The Grinch' Moved To Radio
The Globe's holiday favorite can't be SEEN this year but it can be HEARD
Director James Vásquez grew up with Dr. Seuss books and specifically with "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
"I think my first memory was probably at five or six years old and having the book read to me," Vásquez recalled. "And then, of course, the cartoon was on every year, is on every year, and that was a tradition in our house. So I grew up knowing the story, loving the story and knowing all about the Whos, so then growing up and getting to be a Who is a pretty spectacular thing."
Dr. Seuss' 1957 children's book "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" has had many incarnations. The most beloved is probably the 1966 television special directed and co-produced by Chuck Jones and with the voice talent of the deliciously delightful Boris Karloff. It was also made into a disastrous live-action film with Jim Carrey in the title role and a misguided animated feature with Benedict Cumberbatch.
The musical play with book and lyrics by Timothy Mason, music by Mel Marvin, and original production conceived and directed by Jack O'Brien, has become not just an annual holiday event but also a reliable source of income for the Globe.
But the coronavirus pandemic prevents the Globe from producing the play live on stage this year so it is turning to a radio production instead.
"The themes of 'The Grinch' are kindness, inclusion, community and tradition. So the thought that we would not be able to come back together as a community and tell this story and carry on this tradition was heartbreaking," Vásquez said. "So we had several meetings and we throw out several ideas of potential ways to visit Whoville. And the safest and the one that made most sense for our story was to do an audio play version."
That meant recording each person separately from their homes and padded closets. That was not too difficult in terms of recording the dialogue but it was a challenge to record the songs and make everyone sound like they were singing together.
Although people cannot gather together in a theater to share this production, it does provide the opportunity to sit back and listen to it as if you were having a bedtime story read to you. And that may remind us of the magic that is Dr. Seuss.
"He's absolutely magic," Vásquez said. "I think the key to it is honestly imagination. He gives the permission to kick the door open, to imagine and see the world differently. And I think even as adults, we need that. We need those moments to see the ordinary that's around us in a new way and acknowledge the extraordinary in the ordinary. I also think his lessons, his simple, simple lessons in his stories are life lessons that never go away, that we can always hear and be reminded of. And if there's ever a time that family should gather together and sit and just listen and be kind and be inclusive and talk about child and family, this is it. And I hope we can do that. I hope we can share a little bit of that."
The free audio production of "Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! On the Radio" can be heard on the radio in San Diego on KPBS 89.5 FM and can be streamed live on the KPBS website, on the KPBS app, and on smart speakers at noon Thursday, Nov. 26 (Thanksgiving Day) ; noon Saturday, Dec. 5; noon Sunday, Dec. 20; and 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve)