He’s a Mean One! Whoville braces for another visit from The Grinch

By Diana Saenger

Based on the classic tale by Theodor Geisel, the 16th annual Old Globe production of “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” continues to solicit smiles for its silly costumes, as well as audiences singing along to “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Santa for a Day.”

This whimsical musical is once again delighting children and families, onstage through Dec. 28 in Balboa Park. Of course, some kids can’t wait to see if the Grinch really scares them.

Steve Blanchard is honing up for his third season as The Grinch. Steve Gunderson returns as Old Max, marking his 11th appearance, and two young actresses from La Jolla are ready for their roles in this year’s show.

Gabi Leibowitz returns for her third year, this time in a new role as Teen Who. The 15-year-old said she loves “The Grinch,” and is excited to be back. “All the people associated with the show are amazing,” she said. “Director James Vásquez is so talented and also an actor. He filled in one day for Grandpa Who, and he did the entire track without any rehearsal. From the cast to the crew, everyone is really talented and helpful with the new kids.”

Leibowitz said she wanted to be a performer since she saw “Oliver” at age 4 and started her career performing in dance, musical theater and film. She recently had a role in musicals at LEGOLAND California, the principal role in “Once on This Island” (Francis Parker School), and “Fiddler on the Roof” (Lyric Opera San Diego). Leibowitz studies ballet, jazz and tap, and has won many accolades, including being named a National Youth Theatre Award nominee.

Hourie Klijian has been coming to see “The Grinch” since before she was born. Now the 10-year-old actually has her first role in this year’s production in the Little Who Ensemble. She said she began performing at age 7, in “Annie.” Klijian has appeared in “The Sound of Music” (San Diego Musical Theatre), “Christmas on my Mind” (Lamb’s Players Theatre), “Fiddler on the Roof” and “The Wizard of Oz” (Moonlight Stage Productions). She does solo, vocal performances at local venues and sings in her church choir.

“I love performing, and I love ‘The Grinch,’ ” Klijian said. “I’m in the pink cast, and the rehearsals are so fun. We dance and sing, and work on our scenes. It’s amazing. The adults work very hard and always help us. My favorite part of the show is when the Grinch and Max sing “One of a Kind.”

What little free time Klijian has, she spends watching classic musicals, such as “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and “Annie Get Your Gun.”

Both girls are keeping up with their schoolwork, supported by families who take them to rehearsals and performances. They each have advice for kids who think about performing on stage.

“It’s very fun and you meet nice people,” Klijian said. “But you have to work very hard.”

Leibowitz added, “To go for it, you have to believe in yourself, and enjoy it. Everything is a steppingstone, but go out and audition, and take dance and singing classes. For a lot of the casting calls I go to, they like the kids who have spirit and are themselves.”

“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” continues to capture hearts, and the wintery snow displays and decorations at the Globe are delightful. “It’s a happy Christmas Show and everyone likes it,” Klijian said.

If you go

■ What: ‘Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!’

■ When: Matinees, evenings to Dec. 28

■ Where: Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre at The Old Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park

■ Tickets: From $37 adults; from $24 for ages 17 and under

■ Box Office: (619) 234-5623

■ Website: