Jeff McCarthy, who has played numerous dark-edged characters such as Sweeney Todd, Officer Lockstock in "Urinetown" and Billy Flynn in "Chicago," will now tackle a villain with a heart behind all that green fuzz: the Grinch.
amNewYork spoke to him about the upcoming holiday run of "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical" at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.
How exactly does one audition to be the Grinch? Actually, I didn't audition for it. It just fell into my lap about three or four weeks ago. They just called and made the offer, which his every actor's dream. It's nice after so many years in the business.
Do you have a particular take on the role? I'm still putting that together. I've seen the Chuck Jones animated version and bits and pieces of the musical on YouTube. To a certain degree, you have to be true to the original version. I played the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast" on Broadway, which was another show based on animation. It's very liberating to play whatever this guy is. ... A very freewheeling character.
What's the costume like? It's a lot to digest at first. But after you've worn it a few hours, you forget you have it on. It's considerably less inhibiting than the Beast costume, which weighed 20 pounds and would eventually get 15 pounds heavier with sweating.
You seem to have a knack for villainous roles. I had a heavy, smoky voice that lent itself to that image. I always try to find something lovable about the dark side of these characters or they're no fun to play at all. The Grinch certainly allows for plenty of that. He has a heart in there somewhere.
Who's the bigger villain: Sweeney Todd or the Grinch? I'd say Sweeney Todd. He's evil incarnate. The Grinch is just jealous of all these kids having a wonderful time together and having family and community.
Are you concerned about the possibility of making kids cry? They can hold on to their moms or dads. Every couple of minutes, the Grinch does something so silly and foolish that it takes the edge off any fear or threat.
You were in the Marvin Hamlisch musical "Smile" that was a flop on Broadway in the 1980s. What are your memories of the late composer? It was very sad to lose Marvin. He and I got along well. He threw incredible parties in the Hamptons with all sorts of luminaries. He knew everybody and didn't forget a name or face.
If you go: "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" will play the Theatre at Madison Square Garden from Dec. 13-30. theateratmsg.com/grinch.