“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” opened at ASU Gammage Wednesday. The classic story tells the tale of the grumpy Grinch who tries to ruin Christmas for the town of Whoville. The musical will run through November 21. Seth Bazacas will be playing Young Max, the Grinch’s dog and loyal friend in the show, and spoke to The State Press about the show.
The State Press: First of all, what is it like to be in “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical”?
Seth Bazacas: It is a lot of fun actually. It’s a blast.
SP: You play Young Max, right? How is that different from Old Max? Do you just narrate the first half of the show?
SB: No, actually. Essentially, Old Max will come on in the beginning, and the show is — the concept of it is that Old Max comes back up to that mountain and gets caught up in his memory, and we kind of go back into his memory of back when he was a puppy, back when he was the Grinch’s dog. So the show then progresses basically out of his memory, so he’ll pop in and out … We’re seeing it happen back when it first happened, the live version of the story happening.
SP: Is it weird playing a dog?
SB: No, I mean it takes a little getting used to, but you play him just as any other character. You get used to a different physicality … you add some dog elements, absolutely, through it. But he’s very much a fully realized character who sings and dances and has speaking lines. So, it’s not weird.
[Young Max is] just so pure and innocent. Just like when you see a puppy and it’s almost just like full joy they just exude and exploration and discovery and so much energy and experiencing the world. It’s kind of fun to bring that into this character. So, as an actor … you’re just full of energy and everything is real and fresh, and it’s like you experience it for the first time every time you do the show like a puppy would.
SP: Is it a different experience when you’re working on a holiday show as opposed to a more traditional show like “Seussical”? And you did “All Shook Up” too, right?
SB: Yeah, I did. There’s a lot of similar elements, in particular to “Seussical,” living in that Seuss world … Dr. Seuss created a little different world than the rest of us live in. Everything from the how you carry yourself to the perspective of it all.
It is different with a holiday show, because it ties in with the show. It really brings home, maybe more so than it would in other shows, why you’re doing this particular production and what it’s all about. And it really becomes this holiday event that you’re taking part in, and it’s dealing with the holidays and the story itself is dealing with the holidays. So, it really gives that chance to hit home what Dr. Seuss was getting at which is that story really is about the heart and importance of community and the importance and how relationships and everything is the most important thing about holidays over commercialism. And it kind of seems like a deeper message tied up in what we think is a fun Seuss story, but it being about the holidays and being about what this time of year is all about. Also performing it at this time of year kind of just ratchets up the emotion of the show, I’d say.
SP: What is your favorite part of “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical”? Your favorite personal thing to do? And overall?
SB: I love working with Stefán [Karl], the actor who plays the Grinch, building that relationship between him and the dog. … I’m the constant, loyal friend to him, even though he’s not giving me that time … I have a boorish opening to the show, which is a number where I get to dance and sing and play around in the snow like a puppy, but where it really hits home is after this whole show of Stefán and I, or the Grinch and I, fighting back and forth — I’m not really fighting, I’m just playing around — and he’s going through all his grinchy aches and at the end, that transformation, getting to see that redemptive side of him, kind of seeing me for the first time as a loyal friend and dog. It’s always just a really neat moment.
SP: Were there any personal experiences that you played upon to bring out Max? Maybe what you saw from your actual puppies?
SB: In terms of the actual dog-like aspects, I’ve had dogs all growing up, and I actually pulled in a few things even back when I was auditioning. … Making noise, scratching a certain way…my dog tries to make contact always just with the slight touch of the paw, things like that … Then, I looked both at children and … puppies in terms of getting that just wide-eyed, just experiencing life for what it is.
Bob Richard, the choreographer, really helped me, and the director helped me foster this. Even if I’m doing a dance step, and it’s a pirouette and a kick, it’s really coming from the place that I’m a puppy that’s kicking and playing in the snow. It’s not about me dancing or singing. It’s about me so excited to be in the snow, so excited to be experiencing life for the first time. That’s where it’s all coming from rather than from a traditional, like, we’re doing theater.
SP: The aesthetics of the costumes and the set must be amazing. Have you enjoyed seeing all that get put together?
SB: Yes, it’s been great coming together … It’s interesting, because the color palette they’ve chosen is … very true to the book. So, back when the book was printed, you could only use black and white and red and from that you could get grays and pinks. So, other than the Grinch himself being green, they used that color palette across the board, even on the set which is kind of interesting. It’s like you literally fall into the pages of that book which is a really neat concept.
The props are great. Everything is just original and unique. I mean, like I said, you fall into the pages of the book. Every prop even, down to the littlest packages and little toys look just like things that you can go through the Dr. Seuss book and see pictures of and point out. It’s really cool.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.asugammage.com, over the phone by calling 1-800-982-ARTS (2787) or in person by visiting the ASU Gammage box office.
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