Freeway Music — Columbia, SC’s Premier Music School

Adult Scooby Doo Meets Every Christmas Movie Ever: A Review of ‘How The Grunch Cribbed Christmas’

It’s a modern trend to take a kid’s show or movie and mature it in a remake for its now-adult audience. Whether or not this is a success depends on the medium and the heart behind each project, but many original fans tend to stray away from most remakes of their beloved nostalgia-tripping shows.

Scooby Doo is not immune to this, having been adapted and revamped and parodied for decades now, and it seems like every iteration hits the same beats in order to tell a story that’s ‘never been done before.’ However, one diamond shines among the coals: a particular one-act play hidden in a nerdy corner of the internet, and its new holiday-themed musical sequel that refreshingly expands upon the mystery parody genre.

The Solve-It-Squad Returns, made by comedy trio Tin Can Bros in 2017, follows a kid detective team twenty years after their falling out when a familiar face from their past resurfaces and forces them to work together again. Conflicts arise, sandwiches are made, and in true Scooby Doo fashion, traps are set all to catch this not-so-new bad guy causing mayhem. After solving this decades-long mystery—I highly recommend checking out the show for yourself for the excellently executed twist at the end—they decide to stay together and reignite the Solve-It-Squad. This one-act play was well-received and has grown a deserved internet cult following in the coming years, even getting an off-Broadway production in 2018.

With three script reads of potential animated episodes made over COVID, the Bros returned in 2022 stronger than ever with a musical sequel: How The Grunch Cribbed Christmas. Yes, that’s the actual title. Acting as a fake charity livestream with diegetic nondenominational bangers, The Grunch keeps the spirit of its crime-solving roots and adapts a holly jolly tone to it. Be warned: there is plenty of mature themes and jokes in both, so if you’re young enough to still be watching Scooby-Doo, skip this one.

With absentee parents, quick changes up the wazoo, and a mysterious Grinch-esque monster running amuck that the Solve-It-Squad must unmask, there is something to satisfy diehard fans excited to see their beloved characters on stage again—and singing this time, no less—while granting enough context and novelty not to isolate anyone uninitiated to the Tin Can Bros universe. 

The Grunch uses its small, intimate stage to its advantage by making crowd participation an active plot device. It engages different audience members for funny scenes while carrying out jokes to satisfy callbacks later. Because the audience is canonically present in the story, the characters are allowed to roam around and between the chairs, blurring the line between audience and actor. 

The music, written by the talented Nick Gage, is fun and addictive to listen to, carrying a festive cheer throughout that is guaranteed to end up on your Christmas-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa playlist. It’s entirely in-universe as well, meaning plenty of holiday bells jingling and excellent staging by stage manager Tammy Babich.

This musical takes itself less seriously than its predecessor, having fewer emotionally driven scenes at moments it felt needed. Though it’s not a surprise, given its inspiration, they rely on the quirky, cartoonish humor most Scooby-Doo parodies tend to stray from to undermine what could’ve been powerful scenes if given breathing room. Coming off a play that held a better balance between the jokes and the serious scenes, this sequel is far more comedic, sometimes to its detriment. 

However, the humor makes up for what it lacks in quiet moments. The Grunch still allows their characters time to show their growth between the two installments which feels like genuine progress. They’re played as actual people rather than caricatures of characters from another show. With a sweet but silly message, engaging audience interactions, and near-perfect performances by their small cast—seven people in its entirety, an upgrade from the whopping six from the first—How The Grunch Cribbed Christmas has all you need to make it onto your holiday movie list for years to come.

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