Gotham gets ‘Grinch’ for Christmas

Holiday-only engagement begins previews Oct. 25

The Grinch is stealing the Hilton Theater.

“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! — The Musical” is snatching the Broadway venue from the struggling dance musical “Hot Feet,” which has not yet announced an official closing date but is said to be running through summer.

The holiday-only “Grinch” engagement begins previews Oct. 25, with the official opening set for Nov. 8. Running through Jan. 7, the family tuner will perform 12 shows a week — a big jump from the standard eight — in a packed sked that required a special agreement with unions. Production will run eight shows on the weekend alone and has added Thursday 11 a.m. matinees.

Legiters may roll their eyes at “Grinch,” seeing the venture from Broadway newcomer Running Subway Prods. as an exercise in tourist-baiting commercialism more suitable to Madison Square Garden or Radio City. Competitive ticket pricing of 10%-15% below the standard for most Broadway musicals also stands to ruffle feathers.

And announcement of the show came before the theater’s prior tenant has posted a closing notice — a breach of Broadway etiquette.

But the production does have in its corner helmer Jack O’Brien, who directed the show at the Old Globe in San Diego, where he is a.d. He created “Grinch,” which has played at the Old Globe every holiday season since it preemed in 1998 and is set for this season as well.

O’Brien has clout on Broadway. In addition to current hits “Hairspray” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” he will direct Tom Stoppard’s nine-hour trilogy about Russian intellectuals, “The Coast of Utopia,” for Lincoln Center Theater in the fall.

He will not, however, direct “Grinch” on Broadway. Matt August, an associate director who has worked with O’Brien on New York shows including LCT’s “Henry IV,” will stage the transfer. John DeLuca choreographs.

Show is being reimagined for Broadway, with creatives beefing up the dance, puppets and set (by Rialto regular John Lee Beatty). No casting has been announced, but producer James Sanna is hoping for a marquee name in one of the lead roles.

New York incarnation also will play the nostalgia card, incorporating two familiar tunes from the 1966 animated version of the story: “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas.” (Timothy Mason wrote the show’s book and lyrics; Melvin Marvin composed the score.)

Running Subway is the lead producer of “Sinatra at the London Palladium” on the West End and put up “Cathy Rigby Is Peter Pan” at Madison Square Garden last December. Hilton Theater owner Live Nation is associate producer on “Grinch,” along with Seuss author Theodor Geisel’s widow, Audrey Geisel.

No word yet on what will follow the limited run of “Grinch” into the Hilton, but “The Pirate Queen,” the new megatuner from the creators of “Les Miserables,” has been floated as a candidate.

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