Ever since I was a young Who
I’ve heard the stories told
Bout a furry green behemoth
With a heart that’s dark and cold
Every Who has learned to fear him
From the short ones to the tall
That vile ol’ Grincher
Sure is the meanest one of all!
— From “Mean Ol’ Grincher,” sung to the tune of “Pinball Wizard”
TRAVERSE CITY — Imagine “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” meets “Tommy,” sung and spoken entirely in rhyme.
Lesley Alicia Tye did, and the result is “How Grinchy Met The Who,” a “mash-up rock ‘n’ roll musical Christmas parody show” the likes of which Traverse City has never seen. The musical opened Nov. 30 and continues today and Saturday at InsideOut Gallery.
The play takes a satirical look at the classic Suess story through the lens of The Who guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend’s 1969 rock opera “Tommy.”
The story and characters mirror both original narratives, and the songs — sung to tunes like “Tommy,” “Pinball Wizard” and “Fahoo Foraze” from the original Seuss story — are integrated into the new production with some rewritten lyrics.
The show is a collaboration of writer/director Tye, a film and screenwriting instructor at Interlochen Arts Academy, and musical director/co-producer Tony Bero, a piano teacher, radio sales rep, and Tye’s fiance.
“We were talking about the kind of theater we’d like to do and I thought of this,” said Tye, who based the idea on mash-up musicals staged by a Los Angeles-based theater company. “I thought, ‘That’s an amazing idea. I wonder why no one has ever done it before?’ I don’t think there’s anything like it in Traverse City, and there’s an audience for it.”
In Tye’s mash-up, a raunchy Grinchy — in Pinball Wizard-style hat and glasses — schemes to shut down the rock ‘n’ roll music coming from Who Square, which he hears as an insistent racket echoing through his cave. When he sneaks into town to cut off the electricity and steal the amps, he meets groupie Cindy Lou, hears rock for the first time and ultimately understands that he can’t stop the music even if he cuts it off at its source.