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Curtain goes up for Broadway's 'Dr. Seuss'

The Grinch came back to Broadway Friday, two weeks after the musical about Dr. Seuss' celebrated green meanie was shut down because of the stagehands strike.
Broadway Labor Grinch
Patrick Page, right, star of "Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas!" greet youngsters at the St. James Theatre as performances resume in New York on Friday.Bebeto Matthews / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Grinch — not to mention all those singing and dancing Whos — came back to Broadway Friday, two weeks after the musical about Dr. Seuss' celebrated green meanie was shut down because of the stagehands strike.

When actor Patrick Page, dressed in his furry chartreuse costume, slunk on stage at the St. James Theatre, the crowd erupted in cheers. It was the first performance of "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" since Nov. 9, the musical's opening night.

The walkout by Local 1, the stagehands union, the following day shut down more than two dozens plays and musicals.

Said producer James Sanna just before the 11 a.m. performance (the first of four on Friday) began: "This may be the first time in Broadway history a producer has made a curtain speech on two consecutive performances. The first one was a traditional one on our opening night and now 14 days later on our reopening. ... We have faced lots and lots of obstacles and we are very happy to be back. But if there ever was a show and a company that deserves to be back, it is ours. I am very proud and humbled the way the whole company rallied around us on this."

Theatergoers milled in front of the theater, working their way through reporters and TV crews to get into the theater. Meanwhile, across the street at the dark Majestic Theatre (which houses "The Phantom of the Opera") pickets from Local 1 quietly walked in a circle.

Vendors hawked $20 souvenir programs (which includes a "Grinch" knapsack) as audiences streamed into the theater.

Mark Cleveland, his wife Karla, and their two sons, 10-year-old Adam and 8-year-old Connor, had come from the Netherlands Antilles to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and then maybe some shows. They were leaving for Los Angeles immediately after seeing "Grinch."

"The weather doesn't look very nice, and there are no other shows to see, so we are going to Disneyland," Karla Cleveland explained.

Proud father, Sam Micalizzi of Brooklyn, was also out front. His 13-year-old daughter Marina, is in "Grinch," playing Scallop Who. He had brought along Marina's 10-year-old sister, Gianna, as well as the girls' aunt, Carol Davis of San Diego, to see the musical.

"We think `Grinch' is an important show" Davis said. "It has a really good message."

The reopening of the $6 million production was ordered Wednesday by state Supreme Court Justice Helen Freedman, saying: "I think one Grinch in town is enough."

Her ruling came a day after she heard arguments from producers of the show and Jujamcyn Theaters, which owns the St. James. Producers, citing a special contract between the show and Jujamcyn, wanted the show to go on.

The judge said her decision was based on a provision of the theater lease, adding that she believed the production company would be irreparably harmed if the show wasn't permitted to resume its run.

"Grinch" is on a limited holiday run through Jan. 6. It had 15 performances scheduled for Thanksgiving week, one of Broadway's most lucrative times of the year.

The dispute between Local 1 and the League of American Theatres and Producers has closed 26 other Broadway productions.

Stagehands — who include scenery and prop handlers, carpenters, electricians and lighting and sound technicians — have been working without a contract since the end of July. The labor dispute is focused on how many workers are required to open a Broadway show and keep it running.

Eight other shows, whose theaters have separate contracts with the league, remain unaffected by the walkout: "Pygmalion," "The Ritz," "Mauritius," "Cymbeline," "Young Frankenstein," "Mary Poppins," "Xanadu" and "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." All off-Broadway productions are open, too.