BWW Interview: Rachel Landon of WHO'S HOLIDAY at Open Stage
Who's ready for some great holiday entertainment? There are so many great shows to see during the holiday season. If you need a break from all the holiday craziness and a chance to laugh until your cheeks hurt, hop on over to Open Stage for Who's Holiday. Who's Holiday, by Matthew Lombardo, is not your typical Christmas play. It is a show with only one actor. It answers the age-old question of what happens to characters after the original story ends. Told by Cindy Lou Who, it is the story of what happened to her after the Grinch's famous redemption in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The story is told in typical Seussian rhyme. Rachel Landon will be taking on the role of Cindy Lou at Open Stage, and she took some time to talk to us about Who's Holiday, directed by Stuart Landon, opening on November 16th.
BWW: How did you first become involved in theatre?
Landon: Oh, gosh. Stuart and I have been involved with theatre since we were little - I probably did my first show when I was about six or seven. We got started at our local community center in our hometown in Oklahoma. Our parents were smart enough to see that our eccentricities needed an outlet and were wonderful enough to support our passion. We jumped in with both feet, and, thanks to a lot of fantastic artists and teachers through the years that inspired us to embrace this journey, we are where we are today.
BWW: What is your favorite role to date? Why is it your favorite?
Landon: I've been really lucky to play a lot of amazing characters, and I've ticked a lot of boxes when it comes to dream roles. The Witch in Into the Woods was one, and I was thrilled to be able to play Margaret White in Carrie the Musical twice in my lifetime. I love all of the visceral moments you can share with an audience, but honestly, my favorite thing to do on stage is to make people laugh. My favorite role in recent years was Clarice Starling in Silence! The Musical! It's a parody of The Silence of The Lambs, and the humor is similar to what you'll see in Who's Holiday - it's crass, irreverent, and silly, and it's the kind of show you leave with your cheeks hurting because you've laughed so hard.
BWW: What is One Dream role that you have not had a chance to play yet? Why is it a dream role?
Landon: When I get a little older, I'd love to play Momma Rose in Gypsy. It was a show that helped me fall in love with musical theatre. She's strong and broken, hilarious and tragic - she's the best anti-hero in musical theatre and one of the best roles that's ever been written. Plus, she gets one of the most amazing 11:00 o'clock numbers ever-"Rose's Turn" is a bop.
BWW: Did you grow up watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas?
Landon: We loved the old Chuck Jones cartoon when we were growing up. We had it recorded to a BETA tape, which I think also contained half of The Empire Strikes Back. We watched it twelve months out of the year.
BWW: There are a lot of different versions of the story of the Grinch now. If you had to pick a favorite, which one would it be and why?
Landon: I love the original cartoon of How The Grinch Stole Christmas, but did you know they created a prequel called Halloween is Grinch Night? It was this bizarre movie from the 70's that NO ONE remembers except me, I think. In any case, it's this creepy Halloween-based musical about the Grinch coming down from Mount Crumpit to terrorize Whoville on Halloween night. I loved it because it was the Grinch at his most evil. It's actually the Grinch I think of when I'm doing Who's Holiday - before his famous redemption. Also, look it up, I swear this movie exists!
BWW: Have you ever done a one-person show before? How does the experience differ from doing a show with other cast members?
Landon: I did a one-person musical called Tell Me on a Sunday about eight years ago. It was a short, really cool and little-known piece by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black. It has no dialogue, only singing. This show is on a whole different level because of the challenges that come from memorizing the Seussian rhyme scheme. I feel like Who's Holiday really differs from other shows in that Cindy Lou Who treats the audience as if they are a character - you're literally sitting in her trailer with her listening to her life story, and quite possibly having a drink and hors d'oeuvres with her too.
BWW: So often the holiday shows that are performed on stage or seen on TV are sweet, family-friendly shows. Who's Holiday is adults-only and has been described with words like "raunchy" and "irreverent". So, why this show and why now?
Landon: I think humans need to laugh. You know, we do A Christmas Carol every year because of how important this holiday season is to so many people - we like being uplifted by stories of redemption, faith, and humanity. But the side of Christmas we don't like to talk about is how stressful it can be. Sometimes we're put off by Christmas-maybe some of us (like Cindy) have been traumatized by an experience that accompanies this holiday or we simply don't celebrate it or perhaps (like the Grinch) we are sick of the saccharine that can go along with the spirit of the season. Although I think that most audiences will feel pretty uplifted by Cindy Lou's story, maybe we sometimes need to recognize that the holidays can be a stressful time of the year and the country itself is in a pretty dark place. I like to think one of the greatest gifts we can give to our audiences is to let them sit in a dark theatre for a couple of hours and have a good laugh with a bunch of strangers.
BWW: What do you like most about the grown-up Cindy Lou Who? What makes her an interesting/fun character to portray?
Landon: She is a hot mess. It makes her relatable. Who amongst us has not felt like a complete dumpster fire at some point in our lifetime? I love it when women get to portray characters that don't "have it together." We get to play the long-suffering wives and the put-upon girlfriends, but when movies like Bridesmaids and Trainwreck came out over the last few years we got to see the messy side of being a woman. I saw my past mistakes in those stories - some not-so-shining moments. I see myself in this character, too.
BWW: Who's Holiday was embroiled in a lawsuit in 2016 when the estate of Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) accused playwright Lombardo of copyright infringement. Luckily, the courts found in favor of Lombardo, pointing to the fact that the play is quite clearly a parody. How do you think audiences who grew up loving the traditional Dr. Seuss version of How The Grinch Stole Christmas will react to this parody?
Landon: Well, hopefully everyone will know what they're in for! But if they don't, I think that despite the foul language, the insane amount of cleavage, and the total disregard for decency, people will fall in love with Cindy Lou Who. We loved her when she was a wide-eyed three-year-old in the book, and they will fall in love with the trashy mess of bleach blonde hair she is now. Even if you're easily shocked, I think you'll have a good time. That's what a good parody is for - crossing the line just enough so that the audience is in on the joke with you.
BWW: What is one thing you hope audiences will take away from Who's Christmas?
Landon: Cindy Lou is a survivor, and she's lived a tough life. But, despite it all, she maintains a crazy hope that things are going to turn out okay. Christmas brings out the very best and the very worst in people - and we have to embrace the idea that a mixture of the two makes for a grand adventure.
BWW: What Christmas present would grown up Cindy Lou Who most want?
Landon: I don't think what she has in mind is appropriate to be put into print.
Find out what happened to Cindy Lou Who after How the Grinch Stole Christmas and come ready to laugh at Open Stage's production of Who's Holiday. This show is intended for adult audiences and is not recommended for patrons under 15 years of age. Take a break from the holiday rush and spend some time with Cindy Lou Who! The show runs through December 28th, so visit www.openstagehbg.com to get your tickets.