The Grinch: A (Long) Day in Whoville!
"Wednesday at 2 & 8!" Saturday at 2 & 8!" "Sunday at 2 & 7!" Typically, Broadway shows play eight shows a week with a maximum of two shows a day, usually on Wednesdays and Saturdays. There are many reasons for this - technological and wardrobe considerations, the pull of tradition (before the launch of "Tuesdays at 7" in January 2003, aberrant curtain times met with little success), and perhaps most importantly, the guidelines set forth in the standard Actors' Equity contract.
And then there's Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which during its 15-performance-per-week limited holiday engagement offers "Saturday at 11 & 2 & 5 & 8!" What is that day like for the cast? On December 1 we discovered that, generally, it's hard over in Whoville. No one leaves the theater from morning arrival until after the final curtain has come down....
Look for a special behind-the-scenes video of The Grinch with Patrick Page on BroadwayWorld.com coming soon
THE MORNING SHIFT
The cast starts arriving at 9:30am. The Grinch himself, Patrick Page, usually leads the pack because of his long preparatory time. Next up is the children of Whoville, most of whom commute with a parent from outside the city and leave early to insure they arrive on time in the event of a traffic mishap. The children head downstairs to relax and begin getting made up. Page goes up to his second-floor dressing room with little dog Sophie to relax for twenty minutes or so before beginning his official preparation. As the others file in they go to their respective places and start their own makeup.
Page, who is onstage almost the entire show, has the biggest job of the day and he knows it. His morning is spent doing vocal warm-ups, stretches and sinus cleaning to make sure he makes it through. At a little after 10am, makeup artist Angelina Avallone arrives to begin Page's official transformation into The Grinch. "She does the makeup freehand everyday," he says. "It took over an hour when we started, but we have it down to 45 minutes now." As Avallone works, Page plays an iPod mix and does some more vocal warm-ups. Some stage managers come in to go over various matters, such as misplacement of the prop presents during the "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" scene and how something Page has to grab needs to be in exactly the right place or else his inflexible gloves won't let him do it. Also, even though the show is officially open, there are still changes the powers that be want made. There is a new line in a song "Cause you've got charge ac-counts! Or something like that…" that a stage manager urges Page try out in the first show, despite the fact that the actor "isn't too keen on it." And Page is told that despite the fact that for every performance for two years he has been saying "Cindy Lou" in the final scene, it's actually "Cindy Lou Who" in the script.
"This show is really all encompassing," he says. "I really don't have a life when I do this show. [But] I wake up every morning and remind myself that the kid who memorized the book at age seven gets to perform it on Broadway. It never gets old."
At about 15 minutes to showtime, with makeup still being applied, others come in to apply Page's headband and microphone (green to match his makeup). Next comes on the hair stocking and wig. The whole process ends extremely close to curtain up. At 10:53am, with Avallone still standing by, Page paints puts on menacing eyebrows himself. Avallone leaves two minutes later and Page sneaks his own makeup touchups. At about 11am, he begins playing "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch," his mood music. With the help of his dresser Danny Paul, on comes the suit (in layers). Boots and gloves go on right after, bringing the time to 11:05am. The show has already been going on for three minutes and now its Grinch time. Page shoots out of the dressing room via the special stairs that go right to the stage floor.
There are extremely few costume changes during The Grinch and the set
isn't very complicated, so, during the show, it's fairly peaceful. During the
brief breaks, Danny and some others are in the wings with small hand-held fans,
towels and water to cool the sweating actors off. While the rest of the cast is
singing "Now's the Time," Page gets one minute to run upstairs and cool off in
front of a fan. Danny puts ice packs all over Page's body, some of which Page
wears out onstage under his costume for the rest of the show. Avallone is also
there with a few makeup retouches that will last Page through until 12:25pm,
when the curtain comes down.