By Diana Saenger
The Old Globe Theatre’s holiday season begins at 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20, with the sixth annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the Globe’s Copley Plaza and the opening of a San Diego treasured tradition —– the delightful run of “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” This year’s show is directed by James Vásquez, has a new Grinch star, and a sleigh full of local children singing and dancing their hearts out.
La Jollan Gabriella Liebowitz, 13, a student at Francis Parker, has the role of Betty Lou Who, the eldest daughter in the Who Family. She has previously appeared in many local theatrical productons around town.
Liam James Brandt, 11, of Del Mar, is back for year two. He attends The Nativity School in Rancho Sante Fe and has appeared locally in “Jungle Book,” “The Music Man,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Princess and the Pea,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Annie,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “The Little Red Hen.”
“I love the Grinch show and had so much fun last year,” he said. “It’s fun to jump out from the stage in those funny costumes and sing joyful songs.”
Brandt said he’s taken voice lessons from Courtney Coy, and acting workshops at North Coast Repertory Theatre, in Point Loma, and at summer camps. Supportive parents, and a school principal making sure Brandt keeps up his academic work when he misses school for performances, are reasons Brandt can do what he loves. He says kids who want to try out for the theater absolutely should. “The shows are so fun, and you get to meet so many different people, it’s a great experience.”
Blue Schroeder, 11, of La Jolla is making her debut in the Grinch ensemble, but is not new to performing. She’s had roles in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” (San Diego Musical Theatre); “Les Misérables,” “Seussical the Musical” and “High School Musical” (Actors’ Conservatory Theatre); and “Willy Wonka,” “Seussical the Musical,” “Annie,” “Aladdin” and “Narnia” (Peninsula Youth Theatre).
Schroeder has had some training in camp classes, but said she’s honed her craft more on her own.
“I love singing and dancing, and I watch and learn from artists in those fields. I tried out for Grinch because it’s a show that’s challenging and one that would show my personality,” she said. “For me it’s not about the money, but the happy feeling I get when performing.”
With only a few years of stage experience under her belt, Schroeder, who hopes to make performing her career, has learned some important lessons about the theater.
“If you really want this, you have to push, but not get upset if you don’t get something you try out for,” she said. “It’s a lot about your own personality and how you respond. If you don’t make an audition then find something in yourself you didn’t know was there and keep going.”
Steve Blanchard will get his grump on as the Grinch. He has appeared on Broadway in “Beauty and the Beast,” “Camelot,” “The Three Musketeers” and “A Christmas Carol.”
Other lead roles belong to Logan Lipton (Young Max), Steve Gunderson (Old Max), Remy Margaret Corbin and Caitlin McAuliffe (Cindy Lou Who), and Geno Carr (Papa Who).
Along with a magical set (John Lee Beatty, Pat Collins), hilariously marvelous costumes (Robert Morgan), zany songs (Albert Hague, Joshua Rosenblum, Ron Colvard) and fanciful dance numbers (John DeLuca, James Vásquez, David Krane, Bob Richard) kids tall and small, from all over San Diego deck the stage to tell the timeless tale based on Theodor S. Geisel’s classic about a grumpy green Grinch who steals a town’s presents.
The Globe’s Grinch has been successful year after year, and the young actors have ideas why.
“It’s a popular fun show with new people every year and is a tradition for families to come and see every season,” Brandt said.
Adds Schroeder, “It has zany characters, is great for kids and parents or grandparents, and has some very good lessons for everyone.”
IF YOU GO
What: “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”
When: Matinees/evenings, Nov. 19–Dec. 31
Where: The Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
Tickets: From $39 for adults; $24 for ages 17 and younger
Box Office: (619) 23-GLOBE
Note: Performances restricted to ages 3 and older, except 11 a.m. shows
Tree lighting: 6 p.m. Nov. 20, Globe Plaza, free vouchers at Geppetto’s Toys, Birch Aquarium, and The Prado Restaurant. Features performances by Grinch cast members, a snowfall, and songs from the new Burt Bacharach musical at The Globe, “Some Lovers.”