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BWW Interview: Bringing THE GRINCH To Life At The Grand Ole Opry House

Scott Stewart as Old Max in How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas becomes a part of Nashville holiday tradition, as the Broadway musical version of the timeless tale is brought to life on the stage of The Grand Ole Opry House through December 27, featuring an artful blending of local talents with out-of-town performers joining them in Music City to help tell the story.

The production opened in Nashville on November 20 and continues through December 27, featuring some of local theater's favorite personalities, including Scott Stewart, Vicki White and Geoff Davin - all of whom were Boiler Room Theatre stalwarts and have appeared on stages all over town. The three of them took time from their crazed holiday schedules - replete with all the expected events and responsibilities, with their added jobs of bringing Dr. Seuss' colorful characters to life onstage - to tell us about the experience of becoming a part of this new holiday offering.

Joining them from the orchestra pit is Geraldine Anello, fresh from Broadway's On the Town and Matilda, as well as musical director for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, who offers her own unique perspective on the production that's already garnering audience acclaim in its first couple of weeks at The Grand Ole Opry House.

Scott Stewart as Old Max

Scott Stewart plays Old Max, the narrator of the story:

Tell me how your GRINCH experience came about...I saw an announcement about the open auditions out at Opryland Hotel, but didn't think I had a chance in heck to get cast. And then on the day of auditions, Rollie Mains sent me a text telling me he was playing piano for the Grinch auditions and there was a part for which I'd be perfect. So I drove out there, sang a song, and they asked me back for callbacks. When the casting agent contacted me about callback dates, it was a week I was to take a trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She told me they really wanted to see me, so I gave the trip to my brother and stayed for the callback - and got the part!

Who do you play? I play Old Max. He is the narrator of the story...and gets to sing the signature song, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"! Old Max is retelling the story of the greatest (and worst) time of his life. He was originally designed to resemble Ted Geisel himself...aka Dr. Seuss. And the line, "Of all my stories, I like this one the best" is attributed to Geisel.

What has the rehearsal process been like for you? Intense! A lot of scene work went into the process with the director, Matt August, and associate director, Aaron Galligan-Stierle. They gave me the time and guidance to find what Old Max is looking to tell the audience this amazing memory. The first week was so exhausting mentally, I just went home afterward each night and crashed in my hotel. But by second week, I started taking advantage of the wonderful plays in New York.

What is your most vivid memory of becoming a part of the whole GRINCH experience thus far? It has to be the amazing love from this entire cast. They are so professional and passionate about their craft. And they never miss a chance to encourage and applaud each other and me. It is such a wonderful community created on and off stage by "the Whos"!

Why should people come see the show? Russia has The Nutcracker, England has A Christmas Carol, and here in America, we have How The Grinch Stole Christmas. It is ours. It is such a timeless story - and a wonderful show for everyone in the audience. Grandparents will remember reading it to their children. Those children, now parents, will remember having it read to them plus seeing the animated version that Chuck Jones created and then reading it to their children. And now those children are getting to see the story that was read to them come alive on stage! It is a beautiful production that stays true to the Seuss story in every way!

What's your favorite moment from the show? To avoid any spoilers, I'll mention my second favorite moment. At end, Old Max exits the stage out into the house and snow is falling on the audience inside the Opry House and I get to see the faces of all those kids! The joy in their eyes almost brings tears to this old dog every night.

Vicki White as Grandma Who

Vicki White plays Grandma Who:

Tell me how your GRINCH experience came about... My Grinch experience came about naturally. I saw the audition on facebook. I showed up and had a good day.

What has the rehearsal process been like for you? The rehearsal process has been very fun. The Whos rehearsed for two weeks in New York and we have been teching at the Opry since Sunday. The creative team developed and have been refining this piece for ten years. It is an honor to work with the original creators. This is the same team of directors that worked on the Broadway production.

What is your most vivid memory of becoming a part of this show thus far? It has been a blast discovering the physicality of being a Who. In this Who universe , gravity is a tricky thing. Whos walk in turned out first position and kind of blow into and out spaces like a feather. Many things are leaning at strange angles...including people. And...of course they speak in verse.

Why should people come see the show? First of all this production honors and is very faithful to the original book by Theodore Geisel. It has tons of heart. There is something for every generation. Who doesn't love Dr. Seuss?

What's your favorite moment from the show? My favorite moment in the show is towards the end. The Grinch hears Cindy-Lou singing to him from Whoville after he has taken all their Christmas Loot. He is shocked and in verse he sings about how can this little girl be thinking of him and singing to him after he stole her tree? At that point his heart grows three sizes. It gets me every time.

Geoff Davin

Geoff Davin is cast as understudy to The Grinch:

Tell me how your GRINCH experience came about...I auditioned here in Nashville. I didn't even know the auditions were happening until someone at work asked me if I was going to them. So it was a very last minute decision to go. And I almost didn't because I really thought it was probably more a formality for them to come out here and hold auditions. I figured they would cast the show out of NY. But I went. And then much to my surprise I got a callback. And then another one. And it truly wasn't until that second callback that I thought....hmm....they might actually be interested. But then I didn't hear back from them for almost a month. When I finally did hear from them....it wasn't an offer. They said that they likely had a spot for me...but they weren't sure if it was going to be in Nashville or on tour and they weren't sure what track it was going to be. Then about two weeks after that call I got the offer for the Nashville production.

What has the rehearsal process been like for you? The rehearsal process for me has been unlike any I've experienced. Since I was only hired as the Grinch cover, and am not in the show otherwise, my rehearsal consisted primarily of sitting and observing the Grinch rehearsals. I just watched him like a hawk and made sure I took excellent notes. It was my job to be ready to go on without the benefit of extensive rehearsals. It was an interesting challenge.

What is your most vivid memory of becoming a part of this production thus far? Since I didn't have the opportunity to be up on my feet during rehearsals, it wasn't until I got to Nashville and got to put all of my wardrobe, wig and makeup elements together that I really got a feel for what it means to be the Grinch.

Why should people come see the show? The production team has taken great pains to honor Seuss and this story. Truth be told...I thought that it might just be another cheesy holiday extravaganza. But this show really is sweet, and thoughtful, and full of heart. And the entire company has worked incredibly hard and has endless amounts of energy and positivity. I'm proud to be a part of this production and continue to be in awe of each and every one of the members of this team.

What's your favorite moment from the show? I couldn't possibly answer this question. At 90 minutes the show moves so quickly that I find myself genuinely looking forward to each moment in the show as it comes. And I still get chills when the Grinch's heart grows three sizes. I know that might sound super cheesy. But it's true.

Geraldine Anello

Geraldine Anello can be found in the orchestra pit of How The Grinch Stole Christmas at The Opry House:

Tell me how your GRINCH experience came about...Bob Bray (whom I know from Matilda) recommended me to Joshua Rosenblum, the music supervisor of the show.

What has the rehearsal process been like for you? It was really fun, because I had never seen the show before and got to discover our awesome props, funny bits, and costumes in real time.

What is your most vivid memory of becoming a part of this production thus far? Our opening night party was pretty epic! They drove us to it in our giant Grinch bus, and at some point everyone on the dance floor had danced in circles with our little Cindy Lous and Annie Whos- cuteness overload!

Why should people come see the show? Because we love it so much, and that love shines directly from the stage onto the audience! It's like free hugs, but better!

What's your favorite moment from the show? We have some of the best Nashville players in our band, and up on our band platform I've gotten to really dig in to what they're playing. The end of "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch" and "I'm One of a Kind" - where our brass section is playing with awesome high trumpet hits, mixed in with the deep voices of our Grinch and Old Max - that just get me every time!

About the show: Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical is playing Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House through December 27, as part of A Country Christmas at Gaylord Opryland Resort. Hailed by The New York Times as "100 times better than any bedside story," this classic holiday musical will enchant adults and children alike.

The Grinch broke box office records for two consecutive years on Broadway during its holiday engagements at the St. James and Hilton theaters in New York. Since then, more than 1.2 million theater-goers across America have been delighted by this heartwarming holiday musical, which Gannett papers hailed as "A genius of a show! A total delight for both kids and adults."

"We can't think of a better place for this musical to make its Nashville debut than the Grand Ole Opry House," says executive producer Joshua Rosenblum. "Hundreds of entertainment legends have graced the Opry's stage and it's thrilling that the Grinch will join this esteemed pantheon. We hope it will become a new Nashville tradition."

Audiences will find their hearts growing a few sizes along with the Grinch's when they experience the magic of the beloved tale on stage, which features the hit songs "You're A Mean One Mr. Grinch" and "Welcome Christmas" (written by Albert Hague and Dr. Seuss), from the original animated television special. Max the Dog narrates as the mean and scheming Grinch, whose heart is "two sizes too small," decides to steal Christmas away from the loveable Whos.

"We're delighted to bring the magic of this heart-warming Seuss classic to life on stage here in Nashville," said Gaylord Opryland general manager Pete Weien. "It's a perfect addition to our holiday festivities for 2015 and is sure to delight kids and kids at heart alike."

Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical features sets designed by John Lee Beatty and costumes designed by Robert Morgan, inspired by Dr. Seuss' original book, while the music and book of Mel Marvin and Timothy Mason breathe new life into this timeless story.

The 2015 production is directed by Matt August and choreographed by Bob Richard, based on the original choreography by John DeLuca and originally created by three-time Tony Award® winning director, Jack O'Brien.

For more information about Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, visit www.GrinchMusicalNashville.com.


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From This Author Jeffrey Ellis