Very Carrey Christmas
Through Jan. 1 at Islands of Adventure
Included with admission
After a year’s absence, popular demand has brought Grinchmas back to Universal’s Islands of Adventure. In honor of the 50th anniversary of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the seasonal celebration of Dr. Seuss’ most memorable misanthrope has received a major makeover. Gone are the modestly charming street show and Mount Crumpit slide; in their place is a new 30-minute musical production featuring a score by Mannheim Steamroller’s Chip Davis. Younger Seuss-savants will be satisfied, but Who-ven only knows how the Doctor’s diehards will react.
Things start promisingly, with a narrator (Bryce Ward at the performance I saw) warmly intoning in tune with the original text. But things go sour as the tone turns from the beloved book toward the boorish Jim Carrey film. Instead of the adorable innocents of the original, these Whos are creepy consumerists in petrifying prosthetic proboscises. And rather than the cartoon’s sly and sinuous creation, the Grinch is a galumphing green Wookiee doing an awkward burlesque of zit humor and fourth-wall-breaking asides. The sympho-pop soundtrack isn’t awful, and the talented cast does their best, but they’re saddled with chintzy costumes and uninspired choreography. By the final syrupy stanzas of “Where Are You, Christmas,” accompanied by soapy snow suds, my brain felt two sizes too small. If your little “Cindy Lou” demands you visit, see the last show of the day. The lighting is invisible during daytime, and the shoehorned stage has minimal seating and tree-obstructed standing-room sightlines – an untenable arrangement for such a heavily hyped attraction.
Better yet, head next door to Universal Studios for the Macy’s Holiday Parade, featuring floats direct from NYC’s Thanksgiving ritual. The mobile museum of parade history is MIA this season, but seeing the scaled-down parade in person is still more entertaining than watching its bloated big brother (at least without TiVo).
And as an early Xmas present, you might luck into a sneak preview of Disaster!, Universal’s retouching of the creaky Earthquake exhibit. If the faux posters outside are any indication (“Apocageddon: Tomorrow Is the First Day of the Next to Last Day of the Rest of Your Life”) the humor in the pre-show is getting a needed upgrade along with the effects in the catastrophic climax.
— Seth Kubersky
Getting our jollies
Eschewing tradition and spitting out irreverence are part of the Orlando holiday tradition, and here are a few last-minute additions to the countdown calendar.
Catering to a local love for potty-mouth and perversion, BabyBlueStar Productions and the Invisible Arts Project are doing it one more time, adding a performance of VarieTEASE: The XXXmas Spectacle. The press release says it all: “Where the snow falls a wee bit faster, Mother Ginger is only 3 foot tall, and fairies of a certain persuasion dance in your head and never get out.” (8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22, at Footlight Theater, the Parliament House; $12; 407-454-8478; www.wanzie.com)
Also, our one-of-a-kind SAK Comedy Lab stuffed a couple of weekend-before-Christmas shows onto its schedule, and that’s a good sign that the troupe is full of good cheer and ready to toss it our way.
The SAK Early Show – When the clock strikes 12, Saktors get busy building a show based on an idea from the audience. (midnight Friday at SAK Comedy Lab; $10; 407-648-0001; www.sak.com)
The Heart of Darkness Christmas Spectacular – Typically, this collective of local-but-not-anymore comedians comes home and does a one-night-only show at the Comedy Improv, but this year SAK plays host to the six-pack of stand-ups (Greg Barris, Aaron Bowden, Ricky Reyes, Arnie Ellis, Patrick Garrity and Pedro Lima), who use their words like weapons to skewer the hypocrisies of the world. (8 p.m. Sunday at SAK Comedy Lab; $10-$12; 407-648-0001; www.gregbarris.com)
SAK Yule of Fools – As easy as rolling off a log, the All-Stars field suggestions from the crowd to create a holiday comedy. (10 p.m. Friday-Sunday at SAK Comedy Lab; $12-$15; 407-648-0001; www.sak.com)
— Lindy T. Shepherdarts@orlandoweekly.com