The Alley Theater doesn’t always do a holiday show – last year’s end-of-year offering was the zombie-Hamlet fantasy “Living Dead in Denmark” – but Todd Ziegler saw the opportunity in his first year as artistic director to combine the British science fiction show “Doctor Who,” which enjoys a robust cult following in the U.S., with a perennial holiday favorite – Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
A very special Grinch/Doctor cross-over episode? That’s an Alley Theatre no-brainer.
The company has become one of the standard-bearers of fringe theatre in Louisville, with productions of cult film parodies “Evil Dead: the Musical” and “Point Break Live!” attracting pop culture-savvy audiences who enjoy little a guilt with their pleasures. But that’s only part of Alley’s mission, Ziegler says.
“I think our broad strategy is to really do theatre that you don’t really see a lot anywhere. Coming up after this we have ‘King John,’ the Shakespeare play nobody touches,” he says.
Ziegler wrote the script for “All the Whos in Whoville,” which takes place at “an indeterminate time in the Doctor Who universe,” twenty years after the Grinch helped carve the roast beast for the first time. Cindy Lou Who is all grown up, and the Grinch, well, he’s backsliding a little, revisiting his Grinch-y ways.
“He’s a great villain because he’s coming to steal the most pure and perfectly innocent thing in the world, which is Christmas for children, and if there’s one thing Doctor Who does, he shows up to save the day where he’s needed most ,” says Ziegler.
The time-traveling Doctor appears to fight the Grinch’s anti-Christmas campaign, but fans of the long-running show, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, will wonder – which Doctor?
“You’re going to have to come see it to find out,” says Ziegler.
If you’re lost, here’s a primer on “Doctor Who,” the longest-running science fiction program on TV. The Doctor is a time-traveling alien who, rather than dying, regenerates into a new body with a new personality, hence the many versions of the show’s hero. There’s decades worth of pop culture minutiae to absorb, but Ziegler says he doesn’t think that will keep “Doctor Who”-newbies from understanding his show.
“I think there’s enough recognizable from both worlds for everybody to have a good time, and hopefully not be too overwhelmed,” he says. “I think there’s a good balance.”
“All the Whos in Whoville” takes some artistic license with both properties, including the Grinch’s back-story, adding some context for the creature’s spiritual struggles. The script has been approved as a parody by all of the pertinent authorities – a process that’s now routine for the Alley artistic staff.
“We’ve become experts on copyright law,” says Ziegler. “We make very good use of the definition of parody and fair use.”
“All the Whos in Whoville” opens tomorrow and runs through December 21 at the Pointe in Butchertown (1205 E. Washington St.).