By Greg Vellante
---- — Looking back on his life, Jeff McCarthy describes himself as a child who was “very taken with show biz.”
He recalls staging plays in his garage. And his idol?
“Bob Barker was the coolest,” he says.
At age 8, he was spotted at a taping of the “Bozo” TV show in Los Angeles, a Jerry Mahoney ventriloquist doll by his side. Ever since, the spotlight has seemed to find its way to shine on this actor.
McCarthy currently stars as The Grinch in “Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical,” in a limited engagement running now through Dec. 9 at the Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre in Boston.
The production brings to life to magical holiday story on stage, featuring hit songs like “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas” from the original animated version of the book.
Max the Dog narrates, as the mean and scheming Grinch, whose heart is “two sizes too small,” plans to steal Christmas away from the holiday-spirited Whos. And of course, in the end The Grinch realizes there’s more to Christmas than that for which he bargained.
McCarthy has performed in more than 250 theater productions, including starring roles on Broadway, television and film, and voiceover work, most notably that of Michigan J. Frog for the WB TV Network in the ‘90s. Among his stage credits are performances in “Chicago,” “Urinetown,” “The Pirate Queen, Side Show” and “Beauty and the Beast.” Film credits include roles in “Starting Out in the Evening,” “Consent,” “RoboCop 2,” “Eve of Destruction,” “Rapid Fire” and “Cliffhanger.”
“This show is eye candy,” says McCarthy of the story that has been embraced by generation after generation of children and adults.
The musical features sets and costumes inspired by Dr. Seuss’ original illustrations, which transport audiences to the whimsical world of Whoville. New Music and a new Book by Mel Marvin and Timothy Mason breathe fresh life into the timeless narrative.
“I wasn’t that familiar with the material and read the book once,” McCarthy says. “(I) was always more of a ‘Cat in the Hat’ fan. But it’s a great Christmas confection, a delight.”
McCarthy says he’s a big fan of the production’s musical elements, commenting that the story’s transformation into a musical contains tunes that are “very true to Dr. Seuss’s material.” And despite the initial menacing demeanor of his character, he emphasizes that this is for the whole family, especially young children.
“It’s worth it,” says McCarthy of turning it into a family affair. “The children in the production are first-grade children. Delightful children. This show sends this message to kids in the audience about respect and joy and open-heartedness.”
McCarthy says playing The Grinch has been his “favorite experience,” and comments on the “invention of the production” and how it “looks very much like the drawings from the book.”
“It’s a blast,” he promises.
IF YOU GO What: "Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical," Where: Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre, Boston. When: Through Dec. 9. How: For tickets, $35 to $125, visit Citi Performing Arts Center Box Office, online at www.citicenter.org, or call 866-348-9738. visit www.citicenter.org.