"The Grinch": Mean and green with laughs between

  • Article by: ROHAN PRESTON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 9, 2012 - 4:53 PM

Actor Reed Sigmund sheds his bark and steps into title role of a Dr. Seuss classic.

It's Reed Sigmund's turn to be green and mean.

The Twin Cities actor has twice appeared in "Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas" at the Children's Theatre. In 2000 and 2006, he played Old Max, singing his heart out as the dog that delivers the memorable number, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."

Sigmund gets to put on the title character's green fat suit and stalk the giant, scary cave in the production that opens Friday in Minneapolis.

"It's all pretty surreal," Sigmund said last week before a rehearsal. "My son is turning 3. He saw the Grinch for the first time last year and he loves him. [My wife] Autumn [Ness] made him a little Grinch costume for Halloween, and he wore it for two weeks. The fact that my son's hero is the Grinch is kind of weird, but I'm glad to be my son's hero."

A 13-year member of the CTC acting company, Sigmund is treasured there for his range, his gung-ho attitude and the psychological research he does on his characters, even the picture-book ones that we think we already know pretty well.

"Reed approaches each moment with a sense of relentless exploration," said director Peter Brosius, who is staging "Grinch" for the first time with a creative team that includes choreographer Linda Talcott Lee and music director Denise Prosek. "Reed also has incredible access to his emotions. He's inspirational for me and everyone around here in terms of how seriously he takes the art form and how much joy he brings to work."

The outsider

Sigmund sees the Grinch as deeply wounded. He exists outside the community that he damns. And he's not properly socialized. The theater issued a mock surveillance video that captures the Grinch sneaking around the lobby and backstage areas, stealing food from trash cans.

"The Grinch is the type of character who doesn't know where the lines of decency are," Sigmund said. "He has no social graces or customs to stop him from getting what he wants."

Sigmund said that he does not need to know why the Grinch is the way he is. He likes the origins of the Grinch's character defect to be open enough that people can see themselves, if only a little, in his journey.

"Is he jealous of the Whos in Whoville?" he asked. "Perhaps his shoes are really too tight or his head is not screwed on just right."

Sigmund spoke on his way to undergo the elaborate makeup and costuming required to transform him into the Grinch.

"My forehead doesn't want to turn green," he said of the transformation process of relatively fit Sigmund to his mean, pear-shaped character. "My cheeks absorb the makeup. I've got no problems with my nose or really anything south of my eyebrows. But nothing north wants to change. After five layers of fighting the green, my forehead finally submits."

Makeup was easier for many of Sigmund's other roles. His face was more compliant when he turned yellow, with a touch of brown, for the Cowardly Lion in "The Wizard of Oz." Ditto for the red dog in "Go, Dog, Go!" And it was also easier for Sigmund to turn blue for the genie in "Disney's Aladdin Jr."

There also was a little green in the dragon in "Sleeping Beauty."

The Grinch, his way

Sigmund has witnessed 160 performances of the two other men to play the Grinch at the Children's Theatre in the past decade or so: David Cabot and Bradley Greenwald.

"David had a powerful, still presence, with a deep voice that commanded respect," he said. "Bradley radiated such warmth. As nasty as the Grinch was, you felt that there was something wrong with this poor guy, that there was something good that wanted to get out."

And him?

"Well, I have other strengths," he said. "There's room for comedy in there, which I definitely try to explore. And after the Jim Carrey [2000 film] version, there's room to steady the Grinch. He's not some wild, tour-de-force maniac. I'm finding darkness, anger, hurt and this power to change. The Grinch has been set on his path for 53 years. Think about how hard it is to change your eating habits, or even the way you drive home. But he is able to change his view of the world, how he sees humanity. That's a touching story."

Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390

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  • Reed Sigmund wants people to see some of themselves in his Grinch.

  • HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS

    Who: Book and lyrics adapted from Dr. Seuss by Timothy Mason. Music by Mel Marvin

    Directed by Peter C. Brosius.

    When: 7 p.m. Fri., 2 & 5 p.m. Sat.-Sun., 7 p.m. Thu. Ends Dec. 30.

    Where: Children's Theatre, 2400 3rd Av. S., Mpls.

    Tickets: $10-$79.50. 612-874-0400 or www.childrenstheatre.org.

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