There is a word I learned last weekthat tidily sums up many emotions surrounding the holidays: Anticipointment.
Anticipointment is the initial jolt of joy you feel when making cookies that appear to be perfect — with just the right pinch of festive green sugar. But then, despite following the recipe to the letter, they somehow spread into each other and cook into one amorphous mound of butter and sugar.
It’s the hours spent investing careful thought, and then shopping for an ideal gift, only to see that gift collecting dust in the corner of a damp basement a year later. It’s the trip to purchase a tree, getting the tree home, and realizing that it looks more like a set decoration from “American Horror Story” than the festive pine you were eager to adorn.
This could by why Dr. Seuss’s 1957 children’s book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” is so beloved. We have all felt a kinship with the Grinch at one time or another. As Christmas approaches, our excitement turns to scorn, and as the big day nears, many of us feel like we have a heart that is two sizes too small.
When “Sleigh Ride” is put into heavy rotation at department stores, we come to dread the treats, the sweets, and even the “roast beast.” It’s perhaps why I much prefer the Grinch and “A Christmas Carol” over the treacly sing-song verses of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” opens at the Wang Theatre on Friday. A few weeks back, the “Grinch” company was in Boston drumming up interest in the show, and when I was offered the opportunity to be transformed into the fuzzy chartreuse beast who is as “cuddly as a cactus, as charming as an eel,” I was more than ready to externalize my inner self.
Jeff McCarthy, the actor who portrays the Grinch in the Boston production of the show, shared my assessment that even though it can be a wonderful life, we all have a bit of the Grinch inside us.
“I’d say I have several Grinch moments every year,” McCarthy said. “I usually avoid Christmas as long as possible.”
For McCarthy, an actor who has appeared in more than 250 theater productions — including as the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast” — elaborate stage makeup is de rigueur. For me, it was a bizarre 45 minutes of holding still while brushes and sponges gave me a Grinchy green pallor.
I met with makeup artist Alison Wadsworth, an expert who has worked on grease-paint-heavy shows such as “Wicked.” In the event I wanted to replicate this look on my own, she gave me step-by-step instructions on how to become the Grinch.
First, a healthy dose of yellow grease paint was sponged around my eyes and mouth.
That was followed by a color called landscape green which covered the rest of my face. Wadsworth is quite familiar with this shade. It’s the same that she used on Elphaba in “Wicked.” The tip of my nose was covered in black. I was given a painted mustache and my lips were also painted black.
With a brush, she started painting whiskers on my face. She then made vine-like lines that trailed down from the bridge of my nose toward my mouth. My eyebrows were exaggerated to Andy Rooney proportions with even more makeup.
Near the end of the process I experienced my first Adam Lambert moment.
“Hold still,” Wadsworth told me. “It’s time for the guyliner.”
There was no mirror in my vicinity, so I had absolutely no idea what I was turning into. When I finally saw what I looked like, I frightened myself. I’m already accustomed to being scared by my own mug every morning when I look in the mirror. The creature staring back at me this time was part cat, part reptile.
This was not the end of the transformation. My hair was pulled back, and the Grinch’s wig was gingerly arranged on my head. The front of the headband was then painted green to match the rest of my face. The point is to give the Grinch a higher forehead, but in my case, it now appeared that I had a green receding hairline.
Next came the Grinch costume. The suit is a $15,000 handmade creation that is padded in the stomach and hips to give the Grinch a curvy pear shape. If you’re not feeling particularly confident, I don’t recommend this transformation. You will look green, wrinkled, pregnant, and balding.
The Grinch suit was made with fur carefully threaded to give him an appropriately mangy look. The hands are crafted specifically for the actor. They’re hand-painted, and they come with a price tag of $75 per finger.
McCarthy said when he wears the suit out in public it “unleashes all kinds of primal feelings.”
“It knocks down the fear factor,” he said. “Strangely, rage will emerge from nowhere.”
I’m happy to say that I didn’t feel any additional rage when I became the Grinch. The only thing I felt (as I was instructed to growl into the camera) was silly — and green. After I slipped out of the costume (which was reaching crockpot temperatures), I spent the next 30 minutes scrubbing, rinsing, and exfoliating. As much as I tried, I still looked like I was the victim of both jaundice and food poisoning.
McCarthy told me that when he gets out of the shower, the curtain “looks like I murdered a field of avocados.” It was an ideal cap to my experience of becoming the Grinch. I was left pale green, and now grumpy from scrubbing my face raw.
I returned home, just as the song says, with “all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile.” I’m not ready to steal Cindy Lou Who’s tree, but in true Grinch fashion, I think I’ll hold off from breaking out my Partridge Family Christmas album for the time being.Christopher Muther can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther.