Ben McLean takes on the role of the Grinch in Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics/Cirque Theatre Company’s presentation of The Grinch. The spectacle features music

The Grinch’s origins are explored

Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics gives a new take on the beloved Dr. Seuss tale.

Most of us know of the emerald skinned creature created by children’s story book author Dr. Seuss.

With his heart two sizes too small, the Grinch stews away in his mountain-top cave with his poor dog Max, while the Whos in Whoville below prepare for Christmas Eve.

And we know how much the Grinch hates noise, feasting, and especially singing!

But did you know how the Grinch became so grouchy?

Audiences will soon be led into this new take on the story to the early days of the Grinch’s life when the Vernon-based Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics (ORG) Club and Cirque Theatre Company present The Grinch at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.

“In the first act we find out why the Grinch’s heart is too small and the second act is the story we are all familiar with, except for the fact that the scary monster the Whos are all afraid of is actually someone other than they thought,” said Camille Martens, the show’s mastermind, director and ORG head coach.

The Grinch is the ORG’s 14th performing arts production (past shows have included The Wizard of Oz, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Aladdin, Alice in Wonderland, Anastasia) and this one promises once again to be a spectacle of music, movement, and eye-catching costumes and sets.

“The collaborative nature of this show is a true team effort. Individual sport can be narcissistic in that is a self-focused activity. This show is about team building. No one can do this by themselves,” said Martens.

With the music ranging from Russian-Jewish Klezmer Christmas songs, which Martens acknowledges is a bit ironic, to more modern dance music, the show will not only showcase the gymnasts’ amazing feats of agility in dance, acrobatics and cirque skills, but there will be all the drama and theatrics thanks to the contribution of many talented community members, said Martens.

On the top of that list is design guru David Brotsky, who has once again created the sets.

“This year’s production includes moveable backdrops made of Styrofoam that sit on snowboard skids, which make it easier for the young crew members to move during the set changes,” said Martens, who also credits costumer Trina Montie-Panich with her magical sewing skills.

“They are both amazing. I can’t do this show without them.”

Helping Martens flesh out the narrative of the story has been fellow coaches/assistant directors Tammy Andreotti and Brie-Anne MacPherson, as well as actor Ben McLean, who has starred in past ORG productions in roles such as the Cheshire Cat and Willy Wonka.

Here he dons the full green makeup as the Grinch.

“Ben is amazingly talented and I know his Grinch will be memorable,” said Martens.

Serving as the show’s narrator is Eric Pells, who can usually be found twirling knobs and adjusting lights as the technical director at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.

“He is the voice of the local media, The Whofington Post. You can hear him over the top telling all the Whos to check their devices,” said Martens.

Starring as the young Who boy who is shunned and mocked and eventually seeks his revenge  (no spoiler here) is Camryn Steele, while Cindy Lou Who is being played by two athletes: Sydney Hannah as her younger version and Emmalee Holland as her older counterpart.

Maddy Sellars plays the Grinch’s faithful pet Max, while the king of Whoville is performed by Yann Brierley and the queen is none other than ORG coach MacPherson.

The Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnasts have been producing a performing arts production since 2001 and in the last three years have sold out more shows than any other user group at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre, said Martens.

“We are once again doing three performances for school groups before we open to the public,” she said.

The Grinch opens to the public with shows Friday Nov. 27 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 28 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the Ticket Seller box office in the Performing Arts Centre. Call 250-549-7469 or order at


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