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by Jacob Hayes

Directed by the Russo brothers, Captain America:Civil War features a powerful story line anchored by an amazing Chris Evans.

Taking place shortly after the fall of Sokovia in Age of Ultron, the film follows the Avengers to Wakanda where they finally track down Crossbones, a mercenary hell-bent on ruining the Avengers. Crossbones and his men are quickly disabled by Scarlet Witch and Falcon, the newest members of the team. Crossbones begins making a run for it when Captain America confronts him. Cornered, Crossbones charges Captain America and pulls the pin on his vest of explosives. Scarlet Witch contains the explosion using her telekinetic powers and throws the explosion upward; unfortunately, it’s too close to a building, and it causes multiple casualties. The remainder of the film focuses on the Sokovia accords and whether the Avengers should sign them. Captain America decides not to sign because he doesn’t want to be controlled by an organization. He believes that organizations have agendas, and agendas can change at any time. Tony Stark, however, wants to sign after a mother blames the Avengers for the death of her son who died in the Wakanda accident while studying abroad. Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Bucky Barnes and Ant-Man join Captain America as he fights against Tony, who demands they sign. War Machine, Black Widow, Vision, Black Panther and Spider-Man support Tony as he tries to make Captain America sign the accords.

The film juggles everything perfectly and leaves nothing in the air. It handles a massive cast, extends the character arcs of our veteran Avengers, and informs the audience about its newest members. Iron Man and Wanda are both broken from the events in Wakanda. Falcon and War Machine follow their friends no matter what decision they make. Black Panther sides with Iron Man after “Bucky” destroys the building where the accords were going to be signed, and it killed Panther’s father.

Panther shows the most growth among the new Avengers; he spends a large portion of the film hunting Bucky for killing his father. When Panther finds the man who really kills his father, he spares him because he’s made peace with his father’s death and will leave him to the justice system.

In the second act, Captain America’s team makes a rush for the wing jet, but not before Tony and his team confront him. A battle ensues, and the fight does a terrific job of balancing great action sequences while utilizing the Ant-man’s always funny Paul Rudd. Rudd does an excellent job of giving fan service to those who love the Avenger comic books. He sits on the end of Hawk Eye’s arrow and even grows to 20 feet in height.

In the end the focus of the film is still Captain America as it features him struggling to help his war buddy, even if it means taking down Tony to do so.

+Comic book references

+Massive cast

+Black Panther


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by Jacob Hayes

While Allegiant features great digital effects,scenery and props, the film doesn’t develop the characters any more than the last installment did.

Allegiant picks up a few months later with the aftermath of the war between Jeanine and the factionless. The movie opens with Tris and Four climbing a crumbling building and deciding to leave the city. Evelyn,the new leader, forces important members of Jeanine’s group to go on trial, which results in immediate execution. Tris breaks her brother out of prison before he takes the stand, and each one of her friends tags along. Together they escape over the wall and into the unknown. From there they travel through a Mars-like landscape till they come in contact with an invisible force field. Behind the force field is a civilization known as the Bureau of Genetic Warfare, the ones responsible for the message hidden in the box from the last installment.

Tris meets with the head of the bureau, David, who tells Tris she is the only one in the world that is “genetically pure” and that they need her to fix those who are damaged. For the remainder of the film Tris learns more and more about the bureau.

Although its digital effects were cool, the film struggled conceptually due to the lack of character development and its predictability. Let’s start with the negatives, and try to end on a positive note. When the group is escaping the city, Tori’s death felt brushed over, and the director didn’t give enough time for Tris to mourn the death of her friend. Tori played a major role in teaching Tris about the importance of Divergent and deserves something more than two minutes of crying. Letting Peter join them on their trip out of the city was a dumb move by our protagonist due to the fact that he has betrayed her twice. He even goes three for three by sneaking into Chicago and being the one that releases the serum onto the citizens.It is hard to believe that Peter would gain their trust again,and then betray them (again).Based on past encounters, it’s also hard to believe that they would be so willing to trust in another corrupt government. The spectacle of the film and its excellent use of digital effects covers up these flaws in the story. 


+Cool Tech

-Character Development



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SHADES OF BLUE -- "Good Cop, Bad Cop" Episode 108 -- Pictured: Jennifer Lopez as Det. Harlee Santos -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC)

by Pat Reynolds tv-review (1)

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by Jacob Hayes

Zootopia conveys the powerful message of the importance of individuality. This film is driven by a strong story line while providing plenty of jokes to keep all ages involved.

Judy is a bunny who lives in in Burrowsville, a place filled with carrot farms run by rabbits.Judy sees her friends being bullied by a fox demanding lunch money. She stands up to the bully only to be scratched on the face and told she will never be anything else but a farmer. To prove her bully wrong, she works hard and eventually becomes a police officer in Zootopia, the main setting for the remainder of the film. Being the only prey to ever get on the police force, she’s immediately restricted to parking duty. Judy ends up wanting more, and when the rest of the force struggles to complete a missing persons case, she jumps at the chance to really help someone. She gets the case by promising the wife of Emmett (the only prey to have gone missing) that she’ll find her husband. Chief Talbot is angry at Judy for taking the case when he specifically gave her parking duty because she was brand new to the force. As a result, Talbot gives her 48 hours to find Emmett, or else she has to quit her job. Judy enlists the help of Nick Wilde, a condescending fox who gets hustled into helping her to find Emmett or else she’ll blackmail him for reselling a giant popsicle he previously hustled from her. The rest of the film explores each district of Zootopia.

The overall message is to be yourself and not let words or labels define you. In Judy’s case she went against the stereotype that she would be a carrot farmer and grew up as the first ever prey on the force. In terms of Nick, his flashbacks revealed he too was bullied for being a sly fox who would never fit in with the Boy Scouts who were completely composed of preys. In return, Nick conformed to what the prey had said he should be and wasn’t truly happy till he joined forces with Judy to do something right for a change, instead of hustling on the streets of Zootopia.

As Judy and Nick search for clues, each interaction is funnier than the last one, starting with the naturalists(animals who don’t believe in wearing clothes) to the DMV entirely consisting of sloths.

In terms of scoring this film, I’m having an extremely hard time finding something negative to talk about. It conveys a strong message, plenty of funny jokes for all ages and attention to detail. Overall, the film does a great job of giving each character plenty of reasons and flashbacks to help us understand who they are today. The attention to detail in this film is impeccable, from accurate stereotypes to a miniature city designed for the rodents of Zootopia. Every animal has specific needs, and Zootopia does a great job of filling these needs. For example, the train that Judy first arrives on has miniature doors next to the normal doors to help provide access for the rodents of Zootopia. Zootopia forces its audience to smile because it’s chock full of cultural references that will entertain all ages. Zootopia is by far Disney’s strongest movie since The Lion King and has definitely raised the bar for other movies looking to take home the Oscar for best animated picture. (P.S- Disney won last year).

+Jokes for all ages

+Attention to detail

+Conveys a Strong Message
10/10 Outstanding!

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TBGSacha Baron Cohen’s latest film features graphic jokes and an obvious storyline. The film features two brothers who are separated at an orphanage and grow up to live very different lives. Sacha Baron Cohen plays Dobby Butcher, a family man living in Grimsby, England.His counterpart, Mark Strong, plays his brother Sebastian who grew up to be an M16 Agent after he was adopted. After a disastrous reunion, Dobby and Sebastian are forced on the run by the agency that Strong works for all while trying to catch the assassin Strong was initially supposed to kill. This sequence of events is all due to the fact that Dobby blew Sebastian’s attempt at protecting Rhonda George (an actress wanting to raise money to eradicate disease).

The movie does a good job of sharing the comedy and action scenes between both characters, but not all the jokes necessarily land. For example, in one scene Cohen is forced to assault an enemy base to gain information. The choreography is great until Cohen picks up a pistol and proceeds to kill the rest of the guards on site.This scene doesn’t work because you would have to have years of training to kill three or four let alone the entire group of guards. Scenes like these are definitely redeemed when it comes to Sacha Baron Cohen’s interactions with an elephant. This scene is way too graphic to describe in this review, but it resulted in bringing tears to my eyes and to other audience members around me.

While some jokes landed and others missed, the movie’s storyline was too obvious as to who the real bad guy was and his intentions.The jokes kept me involved, but any form of seriousness was lost because of the obvious storyline.

The only storyline that was handled well was the flashbacks of their separation at the orphanage. The idea that the parents who adopted Sebastian only wanted one kid was heartbreaking due to the fact that every previous flashback showed the brothers’ unbreakable bond. The scene that won me over was when Dobby, who was not adopted, led Sebastian onto a train only to sneak off and leave his brother with a chance at living a normal life. The child actors did a great job and having a younger brother myself I would have made the same choice myself.

The storyline was easy to predict, and the villain was extremely one dimensional, but Cohen has definitely mastered the concept of family.The film gets the message across that family is all that matters, no matter what.

+Emotional flashbacks
+Makes-your-stomach-hurt comedy
-Predictable plot
-One-dimensional villain


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by Jake Hayes

4 Star Wars Battlefront


Star Wars is known for being one of most popular franchises of all time, and this makes Battlefront the most profitable game this year. EA Dice released Battlefront on November 17, 2015, earning the company 12.5 million dollars.

The game features massive online lobbies that can hold up to 40 players at a time. While in-game, players can earn the ability to play as iconic characters, such as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, allowing them to cut through the competition with ease. If a light saber isn’t your specialty, then hop into the legendary Millennium Falcon and annihilate the competition in Fighter Squadron.

Another element Dice excelled on in the process of making this game is the map design. Planets such as Hoth give off a life-like feel as you run through the trenches on this snowy planet while avoiding the massive AT-ATs.

While the characters, game modes and maps are great, the game lacks any sense of customization. Not all players can play as Luke the entire lobby, which leaves players as either one of the rebels or stormtroopers. There are options to change the head of the character, but nothing worth the high prices of that item.

3 Call of Duty:Black Ops 3


Activision’s Black Ops franchise reaches its third installment on next gen consoles. Black Ops 3 features three options for its players including campaign, multiplayer and Activision’s specialty, Zombies.

This year’s campaign leaps into the year 2065, featuring a chilling theme as the player navigates throughout a world of advanced technology with the DNI at its helm. The Digital Neural Interface allows any person with one planted inside their brain to communicate telepathically and hack systems within seconds. The DNI can be very dangerous though, as you watch your friends succumb to mind control and robotic modifications to the point where the soldier is more machine than man.

Multiplayer has been featured in every Call of Duty title since 2004, but this doesn’t hurt Activision. Activision handled the issue of multiplayer this year exceptionally well, with dedicated internet servers and its new addition, specialists. Every Call of Duty multiplayer section to date has featured earnable killstreaks to help enhance the gameplay. Specialists are similar to killstreaks by allowing players to earn even more kills through fun new weapons and abilities for a short amount of time.

The only thing hindering Activision from a perfect score is its poster child, Zombies. Zombies this year featured only two maps, a fan favorite remake, and a cityscape featuring a noir theme. Shadows of Evil, the only new addition to the Zombies franchise, places players on the congested city streets with a lengthy easter egg not worth the reward.

2 The Witcher 3


Out of the four games, The Witcher 3 has the best next gen graphics, with lifelike monsters and landscapes that generate a mythical environment. The monsters in The Witcher are not only beautifully designed, they are also terrifying. The first monster you face is a griffin hunting villagers out of anger because they killed his wife.The dangers presented by these monsters are very apparent, and if the player is not properly prepared, there’s a low chance of survival.

After slaying the griffin I decided to challenge a wolf I found in the woods. This seemed like an easy target, until its five brethren arrived. I was surrounded quickly and died almost immediately.

On one hand, it shows a unique way to defeat every beast rather than attacking head on. This idea added creativity to every battle, but it can cause frustration in new players. I ran into that same pack of wolves four more times until I realized I was going to need a weaker opponent.

Monsters aside, the environment mirrors a mythical version of our own. There are massive fields, forests and lakes that each harbor their own monsters. Included in The Witcher is its decision-based gameplay, which makes each interaction a major decision about who you are and how others see you.

A final feature that keeps calling me back to the game is its leveling system. Leveling up to prepare for the next monster by using monsters that I defeated previously feels very rewarding.

The game struggles with its timing. It takes too long to level up to the point where you are able to take on the bosses seen in the trailers and that players are always raving about.

1 Fallout 4


After six years of anticipation, the series returns with a dedicated storyline about a father searching for his son during a nuclear apocalypse. This decision-based story is fully surrounded by thousands of items, craftable weapons, and armor to help you defend yourself from mutants and other survivors. While venturing through the wasteland, players can decide which group of survivors to side with in hopes of finding your son. Each group you encounter offers their own philosophies about how to handle the new world.

Another option worth putting time into is rebuilding your old neighborhood into a fortress where you can store items and sleep through the night without worrying about mutants. While Fallout features an objective to guide you throughout the wasteland, the game has hundreds of side quests to earn you all kinds of sweet loot to enhance your gameplay.

The looting and storylines alone make this game worth the $60, and the only issue was the power armor. Power armor is a post-apocalyptic version of the Ironman suit that allows you to handle the bigger bosses with ease. The issue with the armor is its fuel source, which is extremely rare to find in the wasteland.

Another issue with the power armor is its location and the time it takes in between loading screens. If you encounter a boss that requires the armor, you have to have fuel, then fast travel to your gear, put it on and fast travel back to the boss. This process becomes very tedious considering how hard it is to find the fuel in the first place.

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by Dakota Antelman

Troy Siebels’ masterpiece production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a show that thrives off of the tradition it cultivates. In 2015, as has been true in years past, A Christmas Carol at the Hanover Theater is a dark holiday fable with a weary looking Ebeneezer Scrooge at its center, and a fantastic compliment of effects surrounding him.

Following the classic plot of Charles Dickens’ 1843 novel of the same name, A Christmas Carol tells the story of the workaholic, money obsessed businessman Ebeneezer Scrooge as he wrestles with the seven-year anniversary of the death of his friend Jacob Marley. The Christmas hating Scrooge is visited by ghosts and whisked on a whirlwind tour of his own past, present and future, ultimately embracing feelings of love and whimsy to become a kinder man.

Scrooge (Jeremy Lawrence), even after bashing his well-meaning employee Bob Cratchit (Matty Rickard) for trying to put coal on the fireplace, garners moderate sympathy. Lawrence, whose character rejects his nephew’s invitation to a Christmas party, and later, through the Ghost of Christmas Present (Andrew Crowe), sees his nephew calling him a disagreeable animal at that party, interprets Scrooge as an aging man with unmanageable grief. Rather than playing Scrooge as a two-dimensional pessimist, Lawrence makes Scrooge seem like a victim who is haunted by the choices he made, and the relationships he destroyed. This complicated interpretation of Dickens’ clear cut antagonist is as much the work of Lawrence as it is his director’s. Siebels notoriously reimagines the story of A Christmas Carol every year. With that, the script his actors work from changes. This year, the play itself opens with an eerie scene in which priests chant a Latin poem. This segues into the opening scene of the play, in which Cratchit clashes with Scrooge over whether or not to start a bigger fire. Nevertheless, the tension between Cratchit and Scrooge is underplayed, leaving time and space for Scrooge to begin his dramatic interaction with the ghosts.

Once that begins, Lawrence screams through his character’s gravely accent both words of confusion as well as desperate pleas to the spirits to show him no more of his past. When looking back on moments in his past where his young self (Antonio Weissinger) befriended the young Belle (Lea Nardi), Scrooge looks to be on the verge of tears. It is during these scenes where he enters his loudest pleas to be left alone. This sets up a fiery exchange between him and the Ghost of Christmas Past (Tori Heinlein), in which Heinlein storms out of the scene with a “Don’t shoot the messenger” type of outburst directed at Scrooge.

Scrooge’s moments of tension rarely occur alone. The Ghost of Jacob Marley (Marc Geller) is an angry character who often shouts at Scrooge, setting Lawrence up to captivate the audience with moments of fear and weakness when presented with the torture that Marley and his infamous chains represent. Geller, who delivers his performance from atop the bed frame in Scrooge’s bedroom, talks down to Lawrence, making the man who seemed big and powerful when he bullied Cratchit, seem small and insignificant when faced with Marley’s warning.

Bill Mootos, who plays Timothy and serves as one of several narrators, delivers lines plucked directly from Dickens’ original text with diction and intrigue. His presence, combined with the selectiveness of these lines chosen by Siebels, makes these excerpts of 1860’s prose tasteful accessories, rather than an overpowering force to the scenes they describe. The iconic, “Spirit, show me no more,” line is among the most widely quoted lines in Motoos’ dialogue. Mootos shouts it with regularity.

Mootos’ enunciation is even more appreciated given minor technical issues that seem to drag on throughout the show. The sound and amplification aspects of the show seem to lag, with actors’ microphones periodically failing during scenes. In much of Act One in particular, Lawrence’s voice sounds muffled, detracting noticeably from the nuances his accent and inflection provide. Independent of actors’ microphones, lack of sound effects seem to break the illusion some of this show’s more dramatic scenes seek to maintain. When the Ghost of Jacob Marley first enters, loud and distinctly metallic bangs perfectly accompany his chains striking the stage. But as the scene progresses, and Marley jumps around the set, these sounds are absent. What are meant to be perceived as heavy steel chains are seen and heard as foam when, for instance, Marley leaps from the top of Scrooge’s bed post and lands with a dull thud.

The show makes up for these minor shortfalls, however, with its astonishing visual effects. Fog is omnipresent on the stage. It gushes into scenes from machines hidden along the catwalk, and creates an evolving cloud of grey that both hangs eerily at the actors’ shoe tops and shoots in dramatic tendrils back towards the ceiling and out into the audience. Lawrence, though sometimes obscured by this thick fog, manages the effects well, relying on his telling voice to convey the feelings of fear that mesh perfectly with the fog.

In the climactic scene presented by the Ghost of Christmas Future, all the fantastic elements of this show come together. The Ghost himself is a mechanical giant that towers over Scrooge and the sets themselves. The Ghost performs his scene without speaking, pointing towards vignettes describing the hypothetical death of Scrooge as thunder echoes, lighting flashes, and titanic waves of fog crash onto the set.

But in due time, the fog diffuses into the vast auditorium, the Ghost of Christmas Future exits, and Scrooge is left to realize his triumphant rebirth as a happy man with a family he has discovered love for, and wealth of money he generously donates to those he once turned away. Lawrence, who plays Scrooge as a fearful, angry, and at times also confused, character, has no trouble adding another layer to Scrooge’s personality — a happy one. Lawrence joins in classic carols and bids the audience goodbye when he and the rest of the cast wave to the crowd as the curtain falls and a grand white organ ascends from the orchestra to play.

Overall, A Christmas Carol at the Hanover Theatre is a locally sourced gem of a theater show. It swirls fear, flair, and fantasy into an encapsulating production that makes Dickens’ 172 year old story seem brand new.

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by Elizabeth Goldberg

It’s been four years, but she’s back.

On Nov. 20, British singer-songwriter Adele Adkins (commonly known as just Adele) has finally released a long awaited new album since “21” (Rolling in the Deep, Rumor Has it, etc.).

The new album titled “25” features eleven full length songs, with an additional three on the deluxe edition.

The first song of the album, “Hello,” was released as a single before the album dropped. “Hello” was popular and as of Dec. 21, has been holding the Billboard Hot 100’s number one spot for the seventh week in a row.

Every song on this album was written or co-written with Adkins, and her usual style of soulful reminiscence and lyrical wisdom is prominent in this work. But, Adele’s mood is seemingly more upbeat or sassy in some places, compared to her last two albums.

Her previous albums focused on heartbreak and loss, but this album has many instances of celebration and joy after the birth of her son.

A few songs in particular stuck out.

The second track on the album, “Send My Love (To Your New Lover),” utilizes her vocals in a different style than usual. This song has a more upbeat feel to it compared to her usual ballads and has a powerful sass to it. The lyrics talk about letting go of an old relationship, and the voice of the song seems to become more powerful now that they’ve moved on.

Another notable song is “A Million Years Ago.”  The delicate guitar-led ballad’s beautiful lyrics gives this song such a depth only attainable by such an accomplished singer-songwriter. The emotion is practically dripping from her vocals, and its intensity is paralyzingly intricate and alluring. This piece showcases how effortless her technique is.

“Hello” being the only single from this album definitely stands out as well, given that the vocals use Adele’s wide range in a heartbreakingly beautiful way.

“Love In The Dark” has some of the best lyrics of the entire album.

“I can’t love you in the dark/ It feels like we’re oceans apart/

There is so much space between us/ Maybe we’re already defeated”

The entire album is so emotional and breathtaking, with every song hitting home with at least someone. Her messages are so personal, and that adds to the depth of the music. It is hard to believe that the voice emanating from Adele belongs to the 25-year-old British bombshell; she sounds like she is someone who has lived through a hundred years of love and loss.

Adele’s album continues to stay on the charts after its release, proving how well received it is as a whole. “25” is a quality album and continues to prove Adele’s vocal technique is like no other.  Definitely pick up a copy and have a listen when you can because this is something anyone with a good taste in music needs to experience.

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by Jake Hayes

Every year since 1988, EA sports has dished out this virtual football game featuring new roster updates and game modes.Twenty-seven years later, Madden 16 offers a fresh take on offense. The power of the game is truly in the hands of the user this year, allowing for multiple weapons to be added to the player’s arsenal.

The user on offense can now choose how the wide receivers and tight ends catch the ball to ensure a successful pass. Say your wide receiver breaks ahead of the cornerback and is wide open. By tapping the square button, the user is allowing for the wide receiver to RAC (Run After Catch). This option is perfect for players who are completely open and are looking for major yard gains. Another new option is the aggressive catch, which can be used by clicking the triangle button. This comes in handy when trying to catch the ball under double coverage. The final addition to Madden 16’s offensive is the possession catch. This is the route to take if you’re looking for a first down and trying to play it safe.

At first glance, all these options sound perfect, but with each option comes its own Achilles heel. RAC can often give the safety the opportunity to intercept the ball. Aggressive catches allow the player to jump straight into the air to get the ball, but it can open the player up to injuries. The only negative side to possession passes is that the player typically catches the ball standing still.

One small, but important feature would be a new skill available to running backs. By holding the L1 button, players are now able to squeeze between defenders. This is extremely useful, whether it’s third and short or trying to run down the clock. I’ve never been very good at running the ball in past years, but this is different. Being able to squeeze between the line allows for even someone of my skill level to make major plays.

One feature that Madden 16 can improve upon for next year is its commentary. Phil Simms has been the same repetitive voice over the years. This doesn’t necessarily ruin the game for me, but it deserves to be mentioned because no game is perfect. Another feature that could be better is the graphics of the game. This being my first Madden on ps4, I expected better graphics than what was delivered.

Madden 16, in general, is a terrific game overall and a great addition to my Madden collection. If I had to choose between a new commentator and graphics or the new mechanics, mechanics would win every time.The offense now has all sorts of new ways to surprise the defense and bring the ball in for a touchdown.


+Reimagined offense                          -Repetitive commentary

+More make-it-or-break-it moments  -Same graphics

+Running backs                                                                                                     8.9/10                               

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The Grinch and Cindy Lou Who during "Santa For a Day." | by


by Dakota Antelman

Despite minor qualms with the ensemble performance, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which just wrapped up a five performance run at the Hanover Theater in Worcester, manages to engage not only its young patrons, but also their parents and older relatives.

The musical, written by Timothy Mason and directed in Worcester by Matt August, follows the classic storyline of Dr. Seuss’ book of the same name. The Grinch (Stephan Karl) embarks on a mission to end Christmas for the peppy Whos who live in a town near his mountain cave. Upon meeting the innocent Cindy-Lou Who, however, the Grinch softens and triumphantly returns the presents and decorations he stole.

While the show is obviously directed towards its younger viewers, the performance does not leave adults feeling unfulfilled. Rather, the brilliant costumes, cartoonish accents, storybook sets, and remarkably immersive acting capture any and every eye.

Stefan Karl brings a glorious personality into the character of the Grinch. He walks a fine line between the animalistic and human, once even descending down the proscenium of the stage, with the mannerisms of a spider.

The sets figure in strongly with Karl’s performance as well. There are moments where Karl seems both a part and apart from the sets behind him as well. In his entrance scene, his cave belches green smoke out onto the stage before him, setting out a mystical carpet for him to sulk and ooze down as he first introduces his comedic quirks and Anti-Christmas sentiments to the audience.

The light design, organized by Pat Collins, is key in the Grinch’s scenes. Each time he appears in front of the audience, the stage is instantly bathed in overwhelming green light. Fog chases the Grinch almost wherever he goes, while discreet shoe level lights seem to illuminate said fog at every opportunity. But rather than being outshone by such accessories, Karl retains his character’s human qualities. He is able to keep crowd members constantly engaged by his multilayered performance.

All and all, the fourth wall does not stand in this production. Time and time again, Karl in particular thrusts his craggy fingers at audience members, barking any variation of “I hate Christmas because of you!” His openness serves as perhaps the biggest reason this production is so palatable to such a wide range of audience members. This openness is never more appreciated than during the soaring tearjerker of a number that is “Santa for a Day.” While such a song might otherwise threaten to alienate the average grade school student, Karl, at one point, momentarily breaks from the heavy material and groans, “Oh no, a ballad!”

Karl’s scene partner in that scene, five-year-old Cindy-Lou Who (Aviva Winick), spends much of the play as the adorable antidote to the Grinch’s pessimism. She sets herself apart from the Who ensemble by turning a minor character in Dr. Seuss’ book into a classic wise-beyond-her-years individual. Winick sings about there being more to Christmas than the gifts she might get. She lectures the crotchety Grinch about love and his own lonely life with a sympathetic and objective tone that is certainly unique to a five year old. When The Grinch returns, she is the child who runs forward to sing about individuality with him.

Old Max (Bob Lauder), the story’s gray and wary narrator, is the antagonist to Cindy-Lou Who’s unburdened youth. He tells the story with sadness and embarrassment at what the Grinch did. He tells Seuss’ story like a war story and draws an at times bleak lens over the whimsy taking place behind him, particularly as he talks of the night where he and The Grinch actually stole the Whos’ presents.

Unfortunately, Lauder does often seem stranded on the stage. Though his voice is robust, this awkward blocking is never more glaring than when he sings “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch Reprise.” He finds himself darting in between Young Max (Matt Weinstein) and The Grinch, dodging presents the two are throwing to each other. He ends up crowding his scene partners, which seems to detract from the iconic song he sings. Lauder is able to make up for these issues nonetheless with his wonderfully gruff vocal style which he showcases regularly in his musical numbers.

Likewise, while the Who Ensemble does at times seem hollow, they are redeemed by the brilliant sets designed by John Lee Beatty, which are the most eye-catching when illuminated by the warm red light that follows the Whos. These sets bring Dr. Seuss’ original book of How the Grinch Stole Christmas to life. It is as if the brushstrokes on the towering wooden sets of the show are perfect echoes of the very brushstrokes that Seuss drew onto letter size paper when he penned his original book nearly 60 years ago.

Overall, this show resonates with even the most mature. It harkens back to times of childish innocence while concurrently speaking to themes of social struggle and loneliness. This show rounds itself out with ideas of magic and wonder. At the center of it all is one transformative man in green fur and a ruffled and stained red Santa coat.

While the Grinch may not steal Christmas, he certainly does steal this show!