by Andrew Gans
November 7, 2006
view article on Playbill.com
The Lion King’s Patrick Page brings depth to the classic story of the Grinch, the holiday-hating creature whose heart grew three sizes one Christmas day.
Ever since Theodore Geisel’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” hit book stores in 1957, the story of a grumpy hermit whose heart is “two sizes too small” and his life-changing experiences in a small town called Who-ville has captivated children and adults alike. A beloved 26-minute animated film — boasting Boris Karloff as both the Narrator and the Grinch — debuted in 1966 and continues to play annually at holiday time, and in 2000 Hollywood favorite Jim Carrey starred in Ron Howard’s live-action version of the classic Dr. Seuss tale. The Grinch’s latest incarnation comes in the form of a big-budget Broadway musical, which is currently playing a limited engagement at the Hilton Theatre through Jan. 7.
Patrick Page, who has spent three years playing Scar in the Tony-winning musical The Lion King (he’ll return to that Disney production post-Grinch) and who delivered over 1,000 performances as Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast, stars in the title role of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas—The Musical. These three credits alone might lead one to suspect that the actor — who is married to Broadway actress and former “Trading Spaces” host Paige Davis — has cornered the market on previously animated characters. “If that’s true,” Page says, “I hope it’s because I’m able to give some dimension to them because [the rest of my] career. . . has been in classical theatre, and I think that prods me into wanting to bring as much dimension to these characters.”
In fact, it was Page’s acclaimed performance as Iago in Michael Kahn’s production of Othello at the Shakespeare Theatre that helped the actor land the role as the sour, green-faced, Christmas-hating Grinch. “Matt August, who is directing,” Page explains, “had just seen [that production] . . . and the idea of someone who wasn’t going to play a single dimensional villain, someone who had experience fleshing out villains as people might have been attractive.”
Page’s love and enthusiasm for the Dr. Seuss work also seems to have factored in his favor. “I’ve wanted to play the Grinch since I was eight years old,” he confesses. “I memorized the entire book when I was eight and would do it every Christmas for my family and friends. . . . I feel a lot of responsibility with this role.” Prior to offering him the part, folks from the Seuss estate came to see his work in The Lion King. Following the performance the actor — who played Decius Brutus opposite Denzel Washington’s Marcus Brutus in the 2005 Broadway Julius Caesar — told them, “I understand that you may be able to find a person who will sell more tickets at the box office than I will, but I promise you will never find a person who loves and respects this material more.” And, Page adds, “I saw their faces brighten.”
When asked why he thinks the story of the Grinch has remained so popular and viable in an array of formats — a book, a cartoon, a film and now a Broadway musical — the singing actor pauses and says, “Part of it is that it’s that classic redemption tale — the idea that someone who seems to be a redeemably lost soul can be saved is a really attractive notion. But with the Grinch I think you have to add to that Dr. Seuss’ words and drawings. . . . He is a genius, and it’s that offbeat sensibility, the way he has with a rhyme, the way he creates a character, and this little relationship in this show between Cindy-Lou Who and the Grinch. . . . It’s a very heartfelt story, and I think because Dr. Seuss always wrote from the heart, I think that’s why it’s endured.”