What has pointy-pointy shoes, long, hairy fingers, a pod belly, fur too warm but always fuzzy, and a long face of make-up – sometimes more yellow, sometimes more green – that takes about an hour perfect?
Oh, that’s a cinch. It’s the mean one, Mr. Grinch!
In an event hosted by the Durham Performing Arts Center at Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh, children with special needs met the fictional character as, well, a person just like them, not a monster who can rob the joys of Christmas.
Tucked into the museum’s Family Fun Night of special needs hospitality, it was a perfect prelude to DPAC’s Dec. 3 sensory-friendly performance of “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas – The Musical!” The special performance is for children and adults on the autism spectrum and their families.
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It’s also the first sensory-friendly Broadway show presented in North Carolina, said Tiffany Mallory, who oversees DPAC’s community relations.
“It’s something we really wanted to offer this community to allow all families in the Triangle to experience and enjoy the magic of theater,” she said.
After all, that is what the story does: reminds us the spirit of the season can’t be stolen by any ol’ Grinch because it isn’t about gifts. It’s about community that comes together through adversity and in celebration.
With about 50 children, parents and caregivers settled in at Marbles on Nov. 18, Andrew Boetcher transformed from a regular person into the famously green Grinch to prove his grumpiness is just a “mask.”
Before long, the Grinch costume – a onsie-type jumpsuit – covered his body. Make-up that once looked more like sports-fan paint-stripes became that of the green, grumpy recluse living on a cliff in Whoville. And the wig he’d use 20 hairpins to hold tight lay next to a color pallet – red to under-circle his eyes, black to deepen his jowls and Grinch green for everywhere else, ear crevices included.
“If you want to be an actor, it’s not a glamorous life,” said Boetcher, a “promo Grinch” not currently on tour.
“It’s smelly and it’s sweaty and sticky, but it’s a lot of fun,” he added, inviting children to feel and see his costume up close. “It’s not that scary; not that scary at all.”
The Grinch’s visit to Marbles was a welcome surprise for Janie Hughes of Apex and her family, especially for sons Cameron, 8, and Colin, 4. They were both born prematurely and have sensory processing disorder, making loud, sudden noise and other nuances challenging.
The family’s oldest son, who also has cerebral palsy, takes a drama class for special needs children through Raleigh Little Theatre at the Halle Cultural Arts Center in Apex.
“He was super excited to see what the Grinch has to do to get ready for the show,” Hughes said. “Now we’re all very excited to possibly go to see the show.”
While sensory-friendly shows are now common at local movie theaters, Mallory’s search for similar live productions took her to New York for a sensory-friendly performance of “The King and I” on Broadway. She also credits the upcoming DPAC show to guidance of the Theatre Development Fund’s Autism Initiative and sponsors such as Duke Health.
The Dec. 3 show will be presented with slight adjustments to loud noises and flashing lights. House lights will remain dimly lit, and food and special comfort items, including iPads, will be allowed inside the theater. There also will be a quiet area in the lobby for children who may need to leave their seat during the show, and about 60 on-site volunteers to assist families and caregivers.
“The audience will be so welcoming, and supportive,” Mallory said. “It will be noisier than you expect in a theater, but that’s OK.”