BOSTON -- He's a mean one, that Mr. Grinch. But Jeff McCarthy, the actor inhabiting the fuzzy green costume in Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas, The Musical, is a pretty nice guy.

"When you put that costume on, you become him," said McCarthy recently by phone from New York.

McCarthy and company bring Grinch to The Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre Friday, Nov. 23, through Sunday, Dec. 9, before heading back to New York for a Madison Square Garden run.

He's delighted to be slithering into this role, after a successful career that includes playing such characters as Billy Flynn in Chicago, Lockstock in Urinetown and Beast in Beauty and the Beast, all on Broadway.

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He'll play the Grinch as less of a psychopath than Jim Carrey did in the movie version of the popular children's book.

"We're trying to put the scare in it a little bit, but not too scary for little kids," he said.

As far as little kids, McCarthy, who grew up in California, knew from the time he was a little one that show business would be his career.

He talked his mother into driving him to the studio gates at Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros. when he was a youngster, hoping to charm his way into the movies.

He finally got noticed when he took his Jerry Mahoney ventriloquist doll with him as an audience member to the taping of the old Bozo TV show, being filmed at the corner of Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles.

One of the producers pulled him aside and invited him to come back as Bozo's special guest. He was only 8, but it sealed the deal and got him hooked on "this wild ride of show business."

The Jerry Mahoney doll is now packed away in a closet in his Montclair, N.J., home.

McCarthy was classically trained at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco but hit his stride when he came to New York and got into musical theater in 1980. He hasn't looked back.

Now, with 250 productions behind him, including starring roles in eight, plus 40 guest appearances on television, including The Good Wife, Cheers, Letterman and various Law and Orders, he's pleased with the career choice he made.

And he can't wait to make his Boston debut as The Grinch.

"I've been to Boston many times, since my daughter went to Emerson. But this is my first time playing here. It will be fun to put on that furry suit and give them a little scare as The Grinch," he said with a chuckle.

Tickets are $28-$78 at www.citicenter.org.

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