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The Right Page

Patrick Page happily takes to the Broadway stage -- disguise and all -- as the Grinch.

By New York City
Patrick Page in the title role of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical
(© Paul Kolnick)
Patrick Page in the title role of
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical
(© Paul Kolnick)
If Patrick Page wanted to be the Grinch, he knew he'd have to sprint. It's not that Page would necessarily be required to sprint on stage as the title character in Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical. But at one pivotal moment in the casting process, he knew he'd better move fast -- literally -- to ensure that he'd land the title role in the adaptation of Theodore Geisel's 1957 children's book, which is now at the Hilton Theatre for a 12-week holiday engagement.

"I did the workshop of the show in the spring, but that didn't mean I was going to get to do it on Broadway," says Page, his astonishingly white teeth showing as he gives a semblance of a smile. "Everything had to go through his widow, Audrey, and her representatives. I was told they wanted to see more of me." Luckily, at the time, Page was appearing on Broadway in a role far nastier than the Grinch: Scar in The Lion King. "Her representatives came to see me and visited me afterwards in my Minskoff dressing room," he recalls, then shakes his head slowly. "They played their cards very close to the vest."

All of them then wended their way to the stage door and out into the Minskoff arcade, where they said goodbye. Page started walking toward the 44th Street exit, en route to the subway, while the others made their way towards 45th Street. By the time that Page had reached 44th and Broadway, he said to himself, "Wait! I haven't told those people how much this book meant to me!" And that's when he started sprinting. Because the representatives were elderly, Page, a comparatively youthful 44, felt he could reach them before they'd walked too far away. He did. "So I said to them, 'This show will have Ted Geisel's heart in its hands, and with him not here to tell you how to treat it, you really need someone who respects it. And believe me, I do."

Page does indeed love and respect How the Grinch Stole Christmas, as is evidenced by the copy of the book that his parents gave him when he was a boy, which sits in his Hilton dressing room. "Lots of kids love this story, but I'm a real Grinchophile," he says. "I've had the whole book memorized and have kept it memorized. So when I heard about the workshop last spring, I really wanted to be a part of it." At the workshop audition, the creative team gave him the script. Page started in reading and quickly stopped: "You see, some tenses were changed, and that threw me off, because it wasn't quite what I'd had memorized since way-back-when. So I just asked them, 'Um, do you mind if I just audition by doing the book for you?' "

They said yes, and off went Page, telling by heart the story of the Christmasphobe who's annoyed by the holiday's noise and gluttony, and therefore steals the presents that everyone in Whoville is expecting. Then he hears the Whos singing despite the loss, and he comes around to appreciating the holiday. "They were really impressed that I knew the book from memory," he says. "I mean, with some people, you just don't know how you've done at an audition; but, this time I felt I'd made the workshop."

The acting bug hit Page early, in part because the Monmouth, Oregon native saw his father, Robert Page, act for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Indeed, the screen-saver on his laptop is a picture of the outdoor Oregon stage filled with actors doing a radio broadcast of Twelfth Night -- and clutching the leg of one actor is three-year-old Patrick Page. "I knew I wanted to do this from around the time this picture was taken," he says, "though I did make a mistake when I pointed to the stage while a dance was happening and said, 'I want to do that.' I meant 'I want to be on stage,' but my parents thought I meant I wanted to dance, and I was soon put in ballet class."

Eventually, he got back on track and even followed in his father's Shakespearean footsteps. (Last year, he won the coveted Helen Hayes Award for his performance as Iago in Othello at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.) His big break came when he was cast in the original production of The Kentucky Cycle in Seattle; when the Pulitzer Prize-winner was brought to New York in 1993, he came with it. Alas, it lasted on Broadway for only 33 performances. p> In 1994, Page had a day-long audition for the national company of Angels in America. "They had me read for Louis, they had me read for Joe, and by the end of the day, even I knew I wasn't quite right for either one," he says. "Then [casting director] Jay Binder happened to say, 'I just lost my reader for the Beauty and the Beast national tour auditions. Would you mind doing them?'"

Page rented the film and realized it was "the first musical I'd seen since my college days. So I went in and read Cogsworth for the other actor auditioning for Lumiere." Eventually, Binder asked that the two to switch roles, and he got the part. Page is happy he won that particular role because his Babette was the actress Paige Davis, who became his wife in 2001. (She didn't take his last name, however, for fairly obvious reasons.)

Some actors might mind being disguised when performing on Broadway, but Page has no such vanity. "I've had to hold up those 10-pound torches in Beauty, and my Scar outfit weighs 40 pounds because of two motors to run the mask," he says. "And the Grinch costume isn't much lighter. Aside from doing Decius Brutus in Julius Caesar last year, I haven't looked like myself on Broadway in 10 years."


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