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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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‘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!

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‘The Patriot Tour’ Tea w/Taya Kyle

While most of us will never know what it’s like to fight for our country like so many brave men and women from all walks of life have done before us, what we can do is never forget to respect, obey and honor them completely. 

But most of all, when an opportunity arises where we can listen to their stories and how they truly define the word “freedom” for all of us, we should take heed and join them. Tomorrow night we’ll all be able to do just that when The Patriot Tour stops by the Merriam Theater at the Kimmel Center for a one-night only engagement that you simply do not want to miss. 

An emotional and engaging live stage experience, The Patriot Tour not only highlights incredible stories from some truly incredible men and women who’ve had their landscapes profoundly changed by their service and sacrifice for our country, but its a story that will resonate with all of us, especially in today’s seemingly crazy and almost desperate times. 

Among the list of esteemed patriots speaking at tomorrow night’s show are retired Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell; Executive Director of the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, retired U.S. Army Capt. Chad Fleming, as well as retired Navy SEAL David Goggins.

Also moving the Philly stages tomorrow night will be Taya Kyle, who’s the wife of late U.S. Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and the author of the New York Times bestselling book, American Wife. Some of you may also recognize those above names as part of the blockbuster film, American Sniper, which was loosely based on the memoir American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by the late Mr. Kyle, with Bradley Cooper playing the fallen hero and Sienna Miller taking on the role of Taya. 

But before Taya shares her story with all of Philadelphia, she was gracious and kind enough to stop by Philly Mixtape for an exclusive chat where she talked, well, about it all in one incredible chat below.

For much more with Taya and how you can get your tickets to The Patriot Tour, check this out

First up, Taya, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with Philly Mixtape. How are things with you these days?
Things are always interesting in my world. My children and I have great leaps in healing and we continue to take some hits. I am really focusing on how to find calm in the eye of the tornado swirling around. I want to learn how to sit in the eye of the storm and find peace there.

I want to talk to talk about your book, American Wife, for a moment. As someone who aspires to be a book author one day, tell me a little bit about the process from start to finish and what kinds of emotions you went through while writing it. And how did it feel the day it got published?  I am working on some other books right now. When I finish them, I think I will have a better answer for you from the standpoint of an author realizing a dream or accomplishing a goal. American Wife was a book I wasn’t ready to write. There was interest from the public and the publisher felt it was important to get it done in a timely manner. Fortunately, Chris and I worked with Jim DeFelice on American Sniper and already established a friendship based in trust. Essentially, Jim worked with the publisher and agreed to put my words to paper in a time where I wasn’t able to pull the intensity of the emotions together to write it myself. I somewhat jokingly refer to the writing of American Wife as me emotionally vomiting on Jim DeFelice for months. The truth is, he loved Chris too and we grieved together as we worked on the book. He is the genius behind the organization and presentation of what we talked about during those months reflecting on my life with Chris and my kids and the toll of grief.

Moving on to The Patriot Tour, what is the thing that you hope the audience will take away from the story?  In years past, we have been humbled to hear how individuals have unique experiences with Patriot Tour. People typically see some parts of their own life in our varying stories. As speakers, we bare our souls, and share not just the end results, but the journey riddled with ups and downs. We laugh at ourselves too. Audience members express comfort in the reminder we all struggle. We all need to dig deep to find the strength to persevere. Sharing an evening of truth and determination to fight the good fight even when it seems impossible, tends to leave audience members and speakers grateful to live in a country where we have the freedom to fight our battles with friends, faith and whatever else we muster up in our darkest hours.

What’s it like for you personally to be a part of this journey?  It takes a lot of people working really hard to make Patriot Tour something audience members don’t just attend, but experience. I love the sense of family and teamwork unique to touring with a shared passion and desire to serve.

It’s been such a hard year for all of us. What words of inspiration would you give to anyone trying to make it through hard times this year, whether losing a loved one or dealing with the aftermath of such horrible natural disasters. With Patriot Tour, we see how real change happens in the hearts of individuals as opposed to group mentality which tends to work only in the short term. When we dig deep and get involved on a personal level we change this generation and the next. When extreme views and crises are the focal point of our world view we run the risk of becoming hopeless. I encourage people to bring hope back to their own lives by filtering through the extremes and looking at their own community. Resist the urge to yell and scream about a problem we can’t fix from afar. Instead, lets roll up our sleeves and use peaceful direct communication and hands on experiences to change what we don’t like. Let’s look for solutions. Seek to understand more than to be heard.  More than any words of wisdom, the best help I am able to give is encouragement for a relationship with God where people will find lifelong help and more wisdom than I can ever provide. It starts with a conversation. It’s that simple. Talk to God; the answers are there.

Just to lighten the mood a bit, any favorite or fall T.V. shows that you’re totally obsessed with right now?  (Laughs) I ended up getting so frustrated with social agendas and bickering presented as entertainment, I turned off the television for a while. My kids and I are getting great family time, more time to read and my hope is I will also translate the lack of TV time into more sleep.

Lastly, describe ‘The Patriot’ in 1 word. Inspiring.

For much more with Taya and how you can get your tickets to The Patriot, check this out

To become part of The Patriot Tour Team, volunteer opportunities and sponsorships are available at www.patriottour.com