Interview: Andrew Polec, The Grinch himself, Shares his Experience in the Iconic Suit
by Cassiopeia Guthrie, November 29, 2023
He's green, he's fuzzy, and he's beloved by generations of Whos in Whoville (and San Diegans alike!). Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and their leading Grinch have officially arrived at The Old Globe for its 26th year.
With book and lyrics by Timothy Mason, music by Mel Marvin, conceived and directed in its original production by Jack O’Brien, and with additional lyrics by Theodor S. Geisel, additional music by Albert Hague, and original choreography by John DeLuca, the James Vásquez-directed musical is based on classic Dr. Seuss book and features recognizable songs like “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” and “Welcome, Christmas (Fah Who Doraze)" from the animated version.
Andrew Polec, playing the Grinch for the third time, has also been seen as Berger in Hair and in Crime and Punishment, A Comedy at the Globe, as well a variety of other productions regionally, off-Broadway, and on the West End. I had a chance to ask him a few questions about this production and loved hearing his perspective on a role so iconic in holiday lore.
"Considering this show and story are so legendary," he said, "I have worked very hard to craft the Grinch’s character onstage so he feels very real and relatable. I know some might consider the Grinch a simple character from a children’s book. I do agree that the Grinch is a character in a children’s book, however, he is very complex. He has emotional depth for miles and the stakes in his story are monumental. I make sure to take the audience on an emotional journey to show how hurt and lonely he is; only to then help the audience find the joy in his ridiculous, childlike actions of attempting to steal a whole holiday. I’ll admit, his actions are over the top, however, he is no more heightened than a Shakespeare character. Shakespeare’s characters speak to the very essence of humanity and though the Grinch is technically a green Who, I think he is very human. I know there are times in everyone’s lives where we’ve been upset with someone or felt hurt or felt lonely. We’ve also all gone through moments when someone has reached out and showed how much they care. When Cindy Lou Who reaches out, it changes the Grinch’s entire life. Love changes entire lives. There is nothing more beautifully complex and real than that."
Of course, it's not all sunshine and roses. After all, the Grinch has a certain appearance to maintain and it is no small feat. Polec shared that the costume does present some significant challenges.
"I am in eight pounds of roasting fur from head to toe, performing under hot theatre lights, and doing multiple athletic feats throughout the show. I sweat through all the layers of my costume. By the end of the show, there is a puddle around me. My dresser and my wig crew member fan me offstage after every scene while I put ice packs under my armpits to bring my temperature down. I also drink about three bottles of water with Nuun tablets every show. If I don’t stay hydrated, I can feel my energy level start to nose dive. Performing in the Grinch costume is essentially like being a superstar athlete for 90 minutes and I absolutely love the challenge."
He added that he loves, in particular, a late-production scene following his Grinch's grinchery. "My favorite scene in the show is when the Grinch has stolen all of the presents but can’t figure out why all of Whoville is still joyfully singing about Christmas. It is such a transformational scene as Cindy Lou Who’s voice reaches him at the top of the mountain and lets the Grinch know that she is still thinking about him. We all have those moments in our lives where someone’s kindness changes your life. I met my fiance in San Diego during a time when I was feeling very “grinchish”. As soon as I met her, her kindness and love completely turned my life around. The Grinch’s transformation in this scene is my favorite moment to play because it reminds me what my fiance did for me - I always dedicate this scene to her in my head."
"I think what’s so marvelous about this production is that it can be enjoyed by all ages," he added. "How The Grinch Stole Christmas has been around for 26 years at The Old Globe, which means that this show has been enjoyed by three generations. I’m constantly meeting adults who say that they have seen this production every year since they were kids and now they are taking their kids to this San Diego tradition. There are magical moments for the kids to enjoy along with some slapstick comedy which always makes them laugh. There are also plenty of moments for adults, such as some humor that might go above a child’s head. The larger theme of how important “whoman” (human) connection is, is universal - though, I think you appreciate that theme more the older you get."
Ultimately, Polec loves the way that the production is so relatable and timeless.
"It is a great American classic," he said, "... the Americanized story of A Christmas Carol. The Grinch is just a green version of Ebenezer Scrooge who lives on Mount Crumpit. The character represents the jaded, lonely adults we all have the risk of becoming as the magic of life wears off and the grind of living wears on. The story serves as a wonderful reminder of how important friends and family are throughout our lives. I always hope people leave the show inspired - that they are suddenly motivated to text an old friend while walking out of the theatre or call a family member that they haven’t spoken to in ages. This life is all about love and the connections we make with each other in our communities and I think the Grinch story captures this theme perfectly. It is an honor to share this story on stage multiple times a day in San Diego."
Audiences can catch Andrew Polec in Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas! at The Old Globe through the end of December.