Gavin Lee is pretty good at playing a grouch. After earning a Tony Award-nomination for his portrayal of Squidward Tentacles in Broadway’s “SpongeBob SquarePants” musical, the acclaimed English actor is hitting the road as the star of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Ahead of the musical tour’s stop in Boston at the Wang Theatre this holiday season, we caught up with Lee to chat about his take on the iconic Dr. Seuss character, how the Grinch compares to Squidward and more.
Gavin Lee talks the Grinch musical, Squidward and more
How does your take on the Grinch differ from other incarnations?
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Gavin Lee: I love the fact that they were brave enough to just go with basically three colors. The show is black and white, and different shades of red, which is what the book is. I didn’t realize this until I started doing some research. In the book, the Grinch isn’t green. He’s those colors as well. It’s only when that 1960s’ TV movie animation was made, that they made him green. Of course now, you don’t think of the Grinch as ever being anything but this disgusting, slimy green color.
Our version is trying to really stick to the book. It’s obviously taken some elements from that fantastic ‘60s TV special. Whereas the Jim Carrey version, and the brand new animation that’s coming out this year, have gone out on different avenues. Our show is really classic to the book.
So did the Jim Carrey version have any influence at all on your portrayal?
Gavin Lee: I did watch the Jim Carrey movie, which I think is absolutely hilarious. But like I said before, our creators are like, “we’re not doing that, though.” That was a great movie, but we’re sticking to the book and how Dr. Seuss originally felt this story would go.
What makes the Grinch such a timeless character?
Gavin Lee: In a similar vain as Squidward Q. Tentacles, which I just finished playing on Broadway in the “Spongebob” musical, the amount of people that came to that show [and said], “Squidward has always been my favorite character…” For some reason, people like to gravitate towards in a happy, happy show the one negative, bring everyone down [character], the cutting sarcastic lines – they like that.
Gavin Lee: They especially like if that character, by the end of the show, has a 180-degree turnaround and becomes the happiest person in the show, which of course, happens in “Spongebob” with Squidward and certainly you know happens with the Grinch. His heart grows three sizes at the end of the show and he becomes one of the Whos and he’s just the happiest guy in the world. People just like to latch onto someone who’s representing perhaps their slightly negative side.
Who’s grouchier, the Grinch of Squidward?
Gavin Lee: I think you have to give it to the Grinch. Squidward is grouchy, but he just moans about it and doesn’t do anything about it. The Grinch, 10 minutes into the show, goes, “I have had enough of all this joy and I am going to do something about it.” And he spends the rest of the show trying to ruin Christmas for everyone. So of course he wins as being the most negative, horrible, you’re a mean one Mr. Grinch. They never say, “You’re a mean one Squidward.” There’s your proof, they wrote a song about it. He’s the worst.
If you go:
Nov. 28-Dec. 9, Wang Theatre, 270 Tremont St., Boston, $25+, bochcenter.org