How many people can say that they’ve played two characters also portrayed by the legendary Boris Karloff?
Tony Award-winner Shuler Hensley now can, having played Frankenstein’s Monster in both the film “Van Helsing” and Broadway’s “Young Frankenstein,” and now he’s taking on the Grinch in “Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical,” opening Friday at The Theater at MSG.
amNewYork spoke with Hensley about the show.
What drew you to this role?
Well, this story obviously I’ve known ever since I was a kid growing up, with the book and the TV show, so it really was a part of our Christmas season. … I’d never done a holiday show, and I always wanted to do that. And I have two kids who are 14 and 10, so it’s sort of right up their alley as well.How did they react when you told you were going to play the Grinch?
They loved it. That’s what I live for. It’s very hard to impress them with grown-up shows, but they really do love this show. It’s one of those things I think we can share this holiday season together because they’ll always be in the theater.
Were they scared at all?
Of course not. They actually prefer daddy as a monster. I’m sure the therapy sessions later in life will mount up.
Did you channel your inner Boris Karloff for this role?
Well, sort of, yeah. That’s the voice that I remember mostly. But what was really great in researching and going back to this were the illustrations in the book. I mean, they’re quintessential Dr. Seuss, and you see one of the those drawings and you know instantly you’re in the Dr. Seuss world.
What makes this story so timeless?
The stories have such longevity to them, the rhyme schemes, the look, just the simplistic nature of the stories, but underneath are these messages which really hit home. I love the fact that the Grinch is the biggest, scariest person in and around Whoville and the one who really captures his heart is the tiniest Who, Cindy Lou Who.
How does the Grinch costume compare to some of the others you’ve worn on stage?
Well, I would say, without question, it is the hairiest. If you want to know the Grinch costume, it’s a cross between David Hasselhoff and a Chia Pet. That’s what it is. There’s just hair everywhere. It’s funny, I was leaving my dressing room last night and it’s a red carpet, but I noticed just green things all over and I looked closer and it was hair.
Yes, it was like some sort of alien pet was living with me. But it’s so fantastic. It’s not nearly involved with prosthetics. It’s basically face paint and the suit, so you don’t feel constricted in anyway.
Is it crazy hot?
It is. It’s crazy hot. It is my fitness routine. If you want to lose 45 pounds in six weeks, do “The Grinch!” It might catch on at Equinox, I have no idea.
If you go: “Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” plays at The Theater at MSG Friday through Dec. 28. 4 Penn Plaza, theateratmsg.com/thegrinch.