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Holiday Tea w/Philip Huffman of ‘The Grinch’

A story that truly needs no introduction as Dr. Seuss’ famed tale of How the Grinch Stole Christmas has been making hearts grow for over fifty years!

But perhaps it’s told even better when it’s alive on stage and intertwined with incredible music and of course, tons of holiday spirit!

Luckily for the entire tri-state area, we’ll get to experience all of that stage magic and so much more as the traveling production is now calling the grand stage at the Merriam Theater home–make that Whoville–until December 29th! 

While we could spill holiday tea until well past New Year’s about what an enchanting show this is and just how little Cindy Lou Who will tug at your heartstrings (Philly Mixtape got to witness it all on opening night and you may just need a tissue or two, who), it’s best to sip a little tea with the star of it all, Mr. Philip Huffman….

……or as everyone will get to know him as….The Grinch

Mr. Huffman recently took a seat and had some tea at the holiday table where he broke mugs about his background, what it takes to play such an iconic character and what we should all take away from this beloved story.

Get to know him below, and then get those tickets because this is one show that you and the whole family do not want to miss this Philly holiday season!! 

Hey, Philip! Thank you so much for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to spill some holiday tea! Kicking things off at the table, spill for everyone a little bit about your acting background. Well, I’ve been living in New York for the past fifteen years. I’ve also been traveling around opening shows on cruise ships and doing guest entertainer jobs. I’ve also studied with cultural theater in Australia, as well as with a lot of regional theater around the country, which includes doing The Grinch for the past three years!

So, cruise ships? That must be a lot of fun.  It is! For one, you get to travel the world and you’re exposed to a lot of different cultures, which is nice.

Any favorite places you’ve ever been to? Spain. I’ve been pretty much anywhere you want to go in the world, but Spain is just full of beautiful culture and incredible people. It’s just a very kind and happy place..it’s just a beautiful country.

Now, on to some Grinch business. What was the audition process like for this truly coveted role? I first auditioned for the show, then I had about five more call backs because [it all] needed to be approved by the artistic team, by the producers and by the creative team. It was a strenuous role to get…a lot of people wanted it! So, there was a lot of competition for it. It’s a fun role because as an actor, you already know you’re going to be beloved by the audience because the character is so beloved, well, by everyone! I don’t think there’s anyone out there who says that they don’t love The Grinch.

What were some of the things they were looking for in finding the perfect Grinch? You go in, and at first you have your own selection of music. They also look at your physical stature and if you’re entertaining in the role. When they call you back, they’ll give you music to learn and you just prepare as much as you can! And of course, give it your all. 

What would you say is the most important part in portraying this character? I would say the most important part is…that you have to love the joy of the holidays! Even though The Grinch is portrayed as someone who detests the Whos and detests Christmas, [he’s someone] who longs to participate in the community and to be accepted in the festivities. So, if you don’t have the desire of enjoying the holidays, you’re probably not going to get the full effect of The Grinch! I also think you have to stay away from the word “angry” when it comes to describing him. It’s more about his loneliness and isolation, which is something we can all relate to at some point in our lives, and I think that’s what makes him so relatable and why this story has transcended through so many generations. 

Truly, there’s so many elements to take away from this story, what do you think the most important one is?  I think it’s the beliefs that are unfounded by facts. The Whos down in Whoville understand without even going to talk to the Grinch, without knowing him and understanding where he’s from that they tell the children to be afraid of him…..to fear the unknown. It’s interesting to see how in society that can happen without even noticing it. I think the biggest message is not falling into the trap of believing something that you’re being told is true. It’s best to invest openly and to draw your own conclusions. If it’s not for Cindy Lou Who, who’s a nice embodiment of innocence in the show that takes on the crusade to go ahead and not believe that the Grinch shouldn’t be included in everything. Sometimes I like to think of him as the crotchety old man down the street that all of the kids are scared to go near his house! But as they get to know him, they realize that he’s not so crotchety! 

Almost like the mean, old neighbor in ‘Home Alone’….. Yes! Absolutely. 

So, any plans while you’re in town? I’m sure The Grinch might have a few…I’ll be popping around as [him] quite a bit. It’s always fun to check out different cities as The Grinch because they truly treat you to nothing but the best! It’s also fun to be here right now because they’ve been trying to get the show [here] for thirteen years, so Philly is going to be a lot of fun to parade through! 

For much, much more with Mr. Huffman and the rest of the talented cast of ‘The Grinch,” guide your sleigh right here

Happy holidays, Philly! 

Cover photo courtesy of the Kimmel Center  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 Reasons Why Everyone Should Experience ‘The Nutcracker’ This Philly Holiday Season

Oh, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker..….where do we truly begin? 

How about with right around this time tomorrow night (and through New Year’s Eve!) that magnificent curtain will rise up at the Kimmel Center’s Academy of Music and give way to what’s sure to be another annual dazzling display of this acclaimed production presented by the astounding, Pennsylvania Ballet

While the reasons listed below are served up as a fine case as to why kids from one-to-ninety-two should experience the magic of lots (and lots!) of sugarplums dancing around their heads all month long thanks to this beacon of a show, but what it truly comes down to are four little-yet-gigantic words….

………support the local arts! Because it all truly doesn’t get any better or magical than what you’re about to get lost in when The Nutcracker takes over our Philly holiday lives once again.Ready? 

Oh, and here’s a few more words…..get those tickets. But first, a delightful, tip-toeing journey through all of the reasons why you absolutely should. 

1.It’s a delightful holiday tale as old as time…..     Considered the most famous stage take of Tchaikovsky‘s historic 1892 ballet, this version ofThe Nutcracker also adapts the story of E.T.A. Hoffman’s tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, which you can actually show to the kids right here before you go! While the equally legendary Mikhail Baryshnikov‘s production is the most recognized television version (really, how can we ever forget?), it is Mr. George Balanchine’s story that has not only been taking over stages (and selling out the holiday box office) for nearly 65 years, but will always be thought of as a groundbreaking production that made ballet famous in America. And it’s for that very reason that we must show our respect, lace up those slippers and tip-toe right to those glistening tickets. 

2.All of the incredible local talent on fine display….  While it’s easy to go on-and-on about just how incredible the Pennsylvania Ballet will always be (those incredible kids work really, really hard, folks), it’s better to just get to know it all right now by gliding to their official website right here. And once you’ve entered the land of extraordinary wonder, you’ll be able to meet the Ballet, see how their spreading the Love throughout the community, find out about future spectacular events, and of course, you’ll get all access to tickets for ‘The Nutcracker.’ There’s nothing more to say here except attack it like you’re Natalie Portman in ‘Black Swan.’ Go. 

3.It’s a must to keep those Philly holiday traditions alive and glowing….    Macy’s Light Show.…the Christmas Village……going to all 75 tree lightings around the city…..Miracle on 13th Street….the ice skating (and carousel!!) at City Hall, and of course, The Nutcracker. Yes, these are all delightfully frosty Philly holiday traditions that have kept alive and glowing all of these years. And you know why? Because us Philadelphians know how to do it holiday-style. So, if you haven’t checked your tradition list twice yet, now is the time, because, you-know-who is watchin’ and makin’ sure you and the whole phamily do it all this year and have the best holiday yet. 

4.It’s a fantastic way to expose your little loved ones to the arts…..  Oh, the holidays. A time when young ones’ minds are at their very inquisitive and you may hear such questions as….what time is Santa coming? Why is Rudolph’s nose so bright? Where do babies come from? How would you like not to answer that not-so-elusive third question, well, at least until January, hopefully. Take them to The Nutcracker and they’ll be so immersed in everything that’s going on in front of them (the dancing! the prancing! the stage! the lights!) that it will take their young minds away from that question and straight into an obsessed world of every sensation of the arts. And if you’re really lucky, maybe they’ll take one of the many aspects of this show and roll with it to see what happens in the future. Now, that’s the true magic of the holiday season. 

5.Speaking of the Arts one more time…….So, there’s this thing happening….perhaps you’ve heard….schools across the country are cutting funding to arts programs..yes, clutch those pearls because it’s true. And guess what? It must be stopped right this very moment as young ones will lose their escape from, well, it all. While we may not be able to change what’s already been done, we can still show just how important the arts are for everyone, everywhere and the Pennsylvania Ballet’s production of this enchanting tale is as fine of a local arts fever as you’re going to get. So, let’s show them we mean business and get out there and support those arts! Besides, GQ just named Philly the City of the Year.…let’s keep the vibes up, shall we? Yes. 

6.Because it’s been a year for us all…    One last sip of holiday tea…let’s talk about 2018. Okay, enough about that…it’s time to get those tickets because if you’re looking for one last escape and capture a truly unforgettable moment as we close out this year, it’s certainly right here. Happy holidays, everyone…and may you dance into the night like nobody’s watching all season long and beyond. 

Cover photo by Pennsylvania Ballet. Media clips courtesy of YouTube, CBS3 and Pennsylvania Ballet. 

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‘The Sound of Music’ Tea w/Jill-Christine Wiley

If there’s one thing that remains true in today’s rapidly changing (and a tad bit crazy) world, it’s that The Sound of Music will remain as timeless as they come. 

A huge Broadway smash thanks to the talents of the incredible Mary Martin and the legendary production prowess of playwrights Rodgers & Hammerstein, the show would also go on to find phenomenal success on the big screen as well (hey there, Ms. Julie Andrews), raking in $158 million in 1965, which adjusts to a whopping $1.3 billion in today’s dollars.

Let that pop culture fact just blow your mind for a moment….

Based on matriarch Maria von Trapp‘s autobiography, The Sound of Music, tells the tale of a rather sugary sweet story involving nuns, Nazis, seven ridiculously cute children, and of course, lots and lots of fabulous hills. However, there’s just something about that dear sweet music when it comes to this ever lasting show, and with such classic tunes as “Climb Every Mountain,” “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi” and “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” you know you’re going to be more than ready when all of these numbers come alive inside the Merriam Theater beginning tomorrow night through this Sunday, April 29th. 

But perhaps even more grand than all of the Music magic that will be taking over the City of Brotherly Love this week, are the many, many talents of leading actress Jill-Christine Wiley–dancing! singing! acting!–and she was gracious enough to stop by the Philly Mixtape entertainment tea table to spill about it all before she dazzles the city with her take on the iconic role of Maria. 

Of course, it may come pretty easy for Jill being that she’s already has a portrayal of another cherished character on her impressive resume–that of Belle in the national tour of Beauty of the Beast. So, now that you’re completely convinced to take the whole entire family to go see The Sound of Music while it’s in Philly this week, get those tickets right here……

…………but first get to know the lovely Jill Christine-Wiley below as she breaks mugs about, well, it all

Hey, Jill, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with Philly Mixtape! Kicking off our little spill, how does it feel to be playing the iconic role of Maria in ‘The Sound of Music?” It’s truly been the most wonderful experience! Getting to step into Maria’s shoes each night is such a privilege. Of course there have been so many talented women who have portrayed this role, such as Mary Martin, having originated the role on Broadway, to Julie Andrews in the film, not to mention the two other incredibly talented women who have led this tour before me. I think it’s also important to remember that Maria was a real person – the first thing I did was go right to her autobiography. I wanted to “get to know her” as best I could. I’m not only storytelling on stage each night, I’m “truth-telling.”

How many times have you seen the original? I think, having grown up watching the film it’s safe to say that I’ve lost count. It’s been a few months (dare I say even more) since I last saw the film….when you’re “living” it each night, it isn’t the first film you go to watch while out on the road…maybe this summer I’ll watch it again for fun!

Moving onto the stage for a moment, what are some personal rituals you do to relax and dive into each show before every curtain call?  I have a pack of Daily Affirmation cards – each card as one word to serve as an “intention card.” Before each show, I will draw a card and use that word as my intention for that performance. Last night, I drew the word, “truth” so I use that performance to really focus in on being truthful. Having that word intention set each night really helps keep me grounded and focused in my show.

There’s simply no denying that we’re in some really truly tough times right now, so we need those future entertainers more than ever!! What words of wisdom would you give to any aspiring actor or actress who decided right this very second to step onto that stage for the very first time? Embrace the mistakes. As performers/artists, we are always evolving, and no work is ever a finished product. Try not to self-edit or judge your work too harshly. We are in an industry where we are always looking to better ourselves – keep working, keep learning, keep growing.

Okay, let’s spill about the show! What can Philly fans expect from this production of ‘The Sound of Music?’ This is a classic and, at the end of the night, you’re going to leave the theatre humming the tunes you all know and love. This story has so much depth, it’s a story for all ages. It’s about the love of family, love of music, finding new love, the political aspects and fighting for what’s right and what you believe in.

How would you sum up it all up in one word? CAPTIVATING!

One last sip…..who are some of your favorite music artists that you simply can’t live without?  I can’t seem to get enough of The Civil Wars, Sara Bareilles or Damien Rice. Pre-show tunes, I can always go for some Barbra Streisand, Nat “King” Cole, Whitney and of course my personal favorite, Celine Dion!

For much more tea with the fabulous Jill-Christine Wiley, check this out…..

……and to get your tickets to relive and revel in ‘The Sound of Music‘ while it’s here in town until this Sunday, follow those hills to the box office right here.

Cover photo courtesy of the Kimmel Center






 

 

 

 

 

CAPTIVATING!