'Grinch' Jeff McCarthy _ a warm man in a cold role
- Article by: MARK KENNEDY
- Associated Press
- December 18, 2012 - 4:41 AM
NEW YORK - This Christmas, Broadway veteran Jeff McCarthy's heart will be growing a few sizes — as much as 13 times a week.
McCarthy is playing the green, hairy, anti-holiday creature in "Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical" at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Based on the classic Theodor Geisel tale, the musical tells the story of the Grinch's Christmas conversion after he tries to steal the holiday spirit from the residents of Whoville.
McCarthy, 58, agreed to wear the furry costume and green face paint despite never having seen the show, which has kicked around on Broadway and on tour for several years.
Why did he do it? "I needed the money," McCarthy deadpans.
McCarthy joined the show in Boston before it made its way south to New York and eased into the part — one of musical theater's coldest hearts. He has two grown daughters and commutes in from his home in Montclair, N.J. And, no, he can't take the suit home.
The born-and-raised Californian has amassed plenty of Broadway credits over the years, including "The Pirate Queen," "Urinetown" and "Beauty and the Beast." He's played Billy Flynn in "Chicago" several times on Broadway and on tour.
That last show led to one of McCarthy's weirdest jobs. A few years back, he was playing "Chicago" in Saskatoon, Canada, on the same weekend that The Eagles were playing. There were no hotel rooms left for the theater pros, so everyone in the cast rented their own cars and drove 80 miles across the middle of nowhere to stay at a motel.
It got worse one night when McCarthy accidentally pushed a button and opened up the sunroof. "It was 45 degrees below freezing outside! I couldn't figure out how to close the dumb thing," he says, laughing.
Perhaps McCarthy's most lucrative gigs was as the official voice of the top hat-wearing Michigan J. Frog, a job that started when he voiced the cartoon film "Another Froggy Evening" and then became permanent when he voiced the frog as the mascot for the now-defunct CW Television Network.
Weirdly, Michigan J. Frog was drawn by legendary artists Chuck Jones, who also directed the original 1966 animated TV special "Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas!"
The Associated Press sat down with McCarthy to find out how he keeps perspective as the mean old Grinch, the surprising way he keeps his electrolytes up, and influencing the next generation of theatergoers.
AP: How long does it take you to get ready for each show?
McCarthy: It only takes 30 minutes for the makeup and about 5 minutes for the costume. It's easier than I ever could have imagined.
AP: You played the Beast in `Beauty and the Beast' many years ago. Any connection between these creatures?
McCarthy: Besides fur? Yes, sweating a lot. With the Beast outfit, I used to say I would put it on and it would weigh 25 pounds. I would take it off and it would weigh 40. But seriously, I take this stuff off and it is as if you dunked it in a bucket of water. It's that wet.
AP: How else does the show take its toll?
McCarthy: Up in Boston, the first time we did one of those four-show days, my electrolytes got way out of balance. I went to lay down before the fourth show and when I stood up, my leg cramped in three places. I went on Google and found out what it was. I not only drink water, I eat salt and bananas and drink Pedialyte.
AP: Wait. The Grinch drinks Pedialyte?
McCarthy: Look, my legs haven't cramped since I started drinking Pedialyte. I'm a walking endorsement for this hideous tasting beverage.
AP: How to you keep festive with this tough schedule and in this mean city?
McCarthy: The little girls in this cast really inspire me. I'm not just saying that. We have four kids that are all under the age of 12 and they are delightful and they are having the time of their life. If I run out of steam or start feeling misanthropic or Grinch-like, I look at these kids.
AP: You did a photo shoot outside Madison Square Garden as the Grinch doing typical New York things like hailing a cab and buying a hot dog. What was the reaction from passers-by?
McCarthy: Half of them looked at me like, `Why should you get the attention?' New York is a tough town.
AP: This may be the first live theater your young audience has ever seen. Does that cross your mind?
McCarthy: Yes and it inspires me and I'm proud to be part of that. I make money doing this, but it's giving back to the next generation and that's a big thing. That's a great thing.
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