PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! — A Drenched Grinch

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09 Nov 2006

Into every life some rain must fall, but Nov. 8 was a deluge for Republicans and grinches alike. The elements turned out full force to "welcome" Kid Lit's most notorious holiday spoiler to the Hilton in Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical.

If the stars were out, they were under the slickers and umbrellas, shielding themselves from the hammering rain. It was a mess to get into the lobby, and a soggy slog to get to your seat. Along one corridor, on a pedestal primed for a photo opt for any stars who cared to avail themselves, sat—impassively (thank God!)—Bullseye, the Target dog.

One real and true star did show, and he shone like a silver dollar—Old Sundance himself, Robert Redford. It was believed to be his first Broadway opening night since Oct. 23, 1963, when he and Elizabeth Ashley opened in a little Neil Simon amusement called Barefoot in the Park. The rest is movie history so some explanation was required.

Grinch director Matt August supplied one. "I asked him," he said, leading with the short answer. "For me, he was my girlfriend's father. I'm partners with his daughter, and we have been partners for three and a half years. It was very nice of him to come because my parents are here and all of her folks are here so it's a family event for everybody."

Amy Redford doubts if her dad will ever act again on the stage but refuses to close the door shut. "You never know," she postscripted. Meanwhile, she is holding up her end for the family eight times a week at the Cherry Lane Theatre, performing a powerfully played and written domestic drama by Daisy Foote titled Bhutan.

Redford also added that, although her father is not physically on Broadway, his handiwork is—via shows that workshopped and lifted off at his Sundance Theatre Lab. Grey Gardens, which bowed last week, took root there two years ago next month. Two years before that, Craig Lucas and Adam Guettel started focusing there on The Light in the Piazza (the very first mother of the bride-to-be, back then, was Mary Cleere Haran).

Guettel is pulling together a two-week workshop of Broadway Show No. 2—The Princess Bride, which he is writing to William Goldman's book—with some musical pals to try his new songs out on their voices: A Chorus Line's Mara Davi and Michael Berresse; Berresse's bro from Piazza, Matthew Morrison; Judy Blazer; Brian Stokes Mitchell (whose wife, Allyson Tucker, is Mehitabel to Lee Zarrett's Archie in Musicals Tonite's Shinbone Alley, through Nov. 19 at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre); Douglas Sills, and Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me's Brooks Ashmanskas.

Sills said he was in town primarily to work on a new play about Alexander Hamilton for Abingdon Theatre Company and help Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty in the reworking of their unsuccessful 1993 musical, My Favorite Year. He'll play an Errol Flynn type. Once a Scarlet Pimpernel, always a Scarlet Pimpernel. (That color could have got him cast as David O. Selznick, come to think of it.)

Tony winners attending the Grinch: Contact's Karen Ziemba, La Cage aux Folles choreographer (turning director with Legally Blonde) Jerry Mitchell, Nine's Jane Krakowski (now in TV's "30 Rock") and Kennedy's Children's Shirley Knight (who happens to have a child on stage, playing a mom—Kaitlin Hopkins).

A Regis-less Kelly Ripa took to the stage to set the stage for the show, reading from the original Seuss book before a sudden cluster of children, advancing this in rhyme on why The Grinch wanted to ruin the Christmas for the good people of Whoville: "It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right / It could be his shoes were too tight / But I believe the most likely reason of all / May have been that his heart was two sizes too small."


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