Green, mean and stinky are favorite words to describe The Grinch, one of Dr. Seuss' most enduring characters and the lead fellow in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical."

But Gavin Lee, the lovable British actor who dons the Grinch's furry green garb in this year's rendition is anything but mean. He's downright delightful -- and darn charming, too.

"I'm having a ball with this part, and it's a thrill to step in to the furry, stinky green shoes of the world's most beloved Christmas bad boy this holiday season," Lee said recently.

He'll bring the Grinch to life in the holiday classic, playing the Boch Center Wang Theatre from Nov. 28-Dec. 9 before it heads to New York's Madison Square Garden for 3 1/2 weeks over Christmas.

Gavin Lee
Gavin Lee

He comes to the show from a recent run on Broadway as the tap-dancing show-stopper octopus Squidward Tentacles in "SpongeBob SquarePants," for which he received his second Tony Award nomination. Previously, Lee originated the role of Bert in Mary Poppins on the West End and Broadway, earning nominations for the Olivier (London) and Tony (Broadway) awards, and winning the Drama Desk on Broadway. He has also played Thenadier in "Les Miserables," another great "character" part.

"In my 20s and 30s, I got to play the juvenile roles, but you age out of them in your 40s, and now I'm getting the fun character roles," said Lee, 47.

Besides having a blast being a character, he loves playing parts that his kids, ages 8, 5 and 21 months, can come see.


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"It's fun to do roles your kids can be involved with," he said. "We've watched the original cartoon with Boris Karloff and the Jim Carrey movie version. Matt August, the director, doesn't want me to be a carbon copy of either of them. He's giving me a lot of leeway in terms of interacting with the audience and ad-libbing -- and I'm loving that since you never know what the audience will say."

With his strong dancing skills, his Grinch will also do a lot more dancing around on stage.

"It's a workout and takes a lot of time getting into the makeup and costume," Lee said. "But you look like a big old grump and the kids, including mine, will love it. It's so cool that we are giving so many kids their first theater experience -- and I want to make it memorable."

Tickets are on sale at www.Bochcenter.org or call 800-982-ARTS (2787) or through Ticketmaster.

Nancye Tuttle's email address is nancyedt@verizon.net.

On the marquee

GRAND OPENING: Middlesex Community College's Theatre Department inaugurates the stage in MCC's new Richard & Nancy Donahue Family Academic Arts Center Theatre, 240 Central St., Lowell, with a production of Shakespeare's tragedy "Romeo and Juliet." Performances are Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 1-2, at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets $18. $12 for MCC students, faculty and staff, and $10 for seniors at www.middlesex.mass.edu/performances.

RINGING TRUE: The Huntington Theatre Company brings "Man in the Ring" to the stage of the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts now through Dec. 22. The new play by Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Cristofer tells the colorful, complex, true story of six-time world champion prizefighter Emile Griffith. Imbued with the warmth of Griffith's character and the joyful music of his childhood home, it chronicles Griffith's sweeping life story, from his humble beginnings in the Virgin Islands to his passionate love affairs and the tragedy that changed his life. Four-time Tony Award nominee Michael Greif ("Rent," "Dear Evan Hansen") directs the show, which packs a powerful punch with its message of love and redemption. R-rated for adult themes, brief nudity, strobe lighting and smoking of cocoa-shell cigarettes. Tickets start at $25. Visit www.huntingtontheatre.org or call 617-266-0800 for tickets.

KID STUFF: Lowell Management Group is thrilled to bring "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical" to Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Sunday, Dec. 2, at 3 p.m. Based on the 1964 stop-motion animated TV classic, the stage version is a great way to experience this family tradition as Rudolph helps Santa save Christmas. Tickets $29-$79 at www.lowellauditorium.com or call 978-937-8688. ... Seacoast Repertory Theatre brings everyone's favorite plucky red-headed orphan to life with its holiday production of the classic musical "Annie," running Nov. 29-Dec. 23. Showtime Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 and 8 p.m. and Sundays, 2 p.m. Call 603-433-4472 or visit www.seacoastrep.org for tickets.

"SANTALAND" SMASH: Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth, N.H., has extended the run of "Santaland Diaries," David Sedaris' comic retelling of his experiences as a Macy's elf during the holiday season. Additional shows are on Sundays, Dec. 2 and 9, at 7:30 p.m. Recommended for adults only. Call 603-433-4472 or visit www.seacoastrep.org for tickets.