Whittier resident Adam Qualls is playing lead roles in the Children’s Theatre Company production of “Dr. Suess's How the Grinch Stole Christmas” during the show’s run from Nov. 7 to Jan. 7. Qualls will play Grandpa Who during eight of the ten shows per week and the Grinch during the other two shows each week.
This is the Children's Theatre's eleventh production of Dr. Suess’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” since 1994. The play follows the familiar story about a grumpy, green guy who resents the Whos for joyfully celebrating Christmas and schemes to ruin the holiday for them.
Qualls, who has lived in the Twin Cities for about 13 years and in Whittier for the past year and a half, started acting in high school and has never stopped. He studied acting at a small college in Illinois before moving to Minnesota, where he has performed in shows like “Shrek the Musical,” “The Defeat of Jesse James” and “Alice in Wonderland.”
“I studied [acting] in college and for some reason never gave it up,” Qualls said. “It’s a tough business. If you want to do it you have to really, really want to do it… There are a lot of off-ramps.”
Qualls started at the Children’s Theatre as an apprentice 11 years ago. During the apprenticeship, he participated in every show for a full season from fall to spring. Since then Qualls has been a guest artist with the Children’s Theatre, working more like a freelance actor. He also works as a supervisor for the child actors in the theater.
While he’s lived in Whittier for less than two years, working with the Children’s Theatre has made Qualls feel part of the community for longer. He loves not having to drive on the freeway to get to work and adores Eat Street’s Vietnamese food, especially Lu’s Sandwiches. He gets the chicken or beef banh mi.
Qualls’ favorite part of the show is when (spoiler alert) the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes.
“I think any adult who has ever felt lonely, who has ever looked at people who are happy and resented that or been jealous of other people’s happiness, I think that these are all relatable things,” Qualls said. “Even if we don’t identify with the Grinch on a day-to-day basis, I think that most people can understand most things that he’s feeling.”
To him, the show is relatable for adults and children because everybody feels left out and jealous sometimes. Qualls hopes that audiences leave feeling the value in making human connections.
“I hope people get the importance of the capacity to change. The importance of connection,” Qualls said. “I hope people laugh and cry. I hope they get some emotions brought out of them. And I hope that they leave filled with the holiday spirit.”
If you are more familiar with the Jim Carrey version of the “Grinch,” the Children’s Theater show is a bit different. In the Children’s Theater version, the whole thing is narrated by an older version of Max, the dog, reminiscing on his memories as a younger dog. A child actor plays the young version of Max in the play. Whereas the “Grinch” movie gets into the Grinch’s childhood and reasons for being Grinch-like, the play instead highlights the radical change in the Grinch from the beginning to the end of the show.