The Grinch Comes to PPAC

The Grinch, played by actor Stefan Karl Stefánsson, sat down with Rhode Island Monthly for an interview to talk about his evil role in How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, which is coming to the PPAC for the first time ever November 15-20.

We met the Grinch last week, and he sure was a mean one. We caught him causing mischief at the Providence Performing Arts Center, messing with staffers, stealing personal objects and defiling property (click here to watch a video produced by PPAC). But the actor who plays the Grinch, Stefan Karl Stefánsson, couldn’t have been nicer. He sat down with us for an interview to talk about his evil role in How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, which is coming to the PPAC for the first time ever November 15-20.

How did you get to play the role of the Grinch?  My agent called me in 2007 and said it was the perfect role for me because of my background in children’s programming [He stars in the Nickelodeon television show LazyTown]. I flew down to Los Angeles to meet with everyone who was involved in the production, and then they asked me to come back to L.A. again for another audition. I had to wait another year to take the role because there were union issues because I am a foreigner [He’s from Iceland]. It is now my fourth year, and I suppose I will still be doing it when I am 53. I’m 36 now, but the Grinch said in the book, “For fifty-three years I’ve put up with it now!"

What does it take to get into the role? It takes 1.5 hours of preparation. I sit here with my makeup artist, and the makeup goes on, the wig goes on, the costume goes on, and then I become the Grinch. When you do the show so many times, the danger is that it becomes routine. Before each show, I try to go behind the stage while the curtain is still down and I listen to the audience to get a sense of their energy level. Sometimes I even peek at the kids as they walk into the show, because they all have great big smiles and are so excited to see the show. Then I become like a kid again myself, and when I go on stage, I am ready to scare them!

When was the first time you read the book? It was translated in Iceland, too, and my mom and dad read it to me when I was a kid. I have also read it to my own children. I have four children, ages sixteen, ten, four and three. They are all girls except for my youngest.

What do your kids think about their dad playing the Grinch? The younger ones think it’s the coolest thing in the world that their dad plays the Grinch. The sixteen-year-old, not so much. But they always come to the show. This year, they will come to San Francisco. The hardest part is that I am always away. Thank god for Skype!

How do you make up for playing such an evil character? Back home, I run an organization called Rainbow Children, for children who have been bullied in school. I do appearances at schools and I give lectures. So that’s how I make up for being such a bad guy.

Why do you think people should come see the Grinch? It’s the first time we’ve been back on the East Coast since Broadway in 2008. And it is the first time the Grinch has come to Providence. I think it is very important that people take their children to the theater. Children are so used to playing video games and playing on the computer and iPads, that we forget the importance of theater. It brings the family together for the holidays.

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