Durham, N.C. — Bob Lauder has sung opera, taught preschool, been on the "Titanic," and spread Christmas cheer in Las Vegas - but he is most excited about his role as "Old Max" in the upcoming production of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, which visits the Durham Performing Arts Center in late November.
The first time you see Lauder on stage as Old Max, he has a suitcase. He is presumably going into the afterlife, but stops when he hears the Whos singing. Old Max then starts to tell the audience about his memories, essentially serving as the narrator. The show is designed to appeal to everyone from small children and adults.
"The show has layers like a Warner Bros. cartoon," Lauder said in a phone interview last week.
It's a role Lauder has had for seven years. He got the role after seeing the casting notice on Facebook and sending the casting director a YouTube video of him singing "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."
The former preschool teacher said it his key to keeping the classic tale fresh on stage is to remember all the times he read the book to his students and his sons.
"I try to get the same feeling when I was reading to those children and mine," Lauder said."(Like) it's a brand new story. I'm telling it for the very time."
Fans of the book and cartoon will notice a lot of similarities.
"The sets look exactly as if they had been lifted from the book, blown up to huge proportion on stage," Lauder said. "It looks like Dr. Seuss drew our sets on stage."
The Grinch is green just like the one in the cartoon. While the Grinch costume can be a little scary to look at, Lauder insists that children actually enjoy the famous character on stage.
"He's a fun scary. One of those guys, big and loud and mean acting," Lauder said. "To the audience and the younger children, it's a comedic evil. A bad guy they can laugh at."
Before tackling the role of Old Max, Lauder had a gig playing Santa Claus in the Las Vegas Christmas Spectacular, Believe in the Magic, where he danced with 10 showgirls dressed as elves. Being Santa is actually a memory close to Lauder's heart. His father used to work as a local Santa, visiting some homes in the community every year. Lauder would dress up as his elf. Lauder eventually took over the red suit and even breaks it out for the "Grinch" cast holiday party.
"I loved being Santa. I loved the look on people's faces," he said.
Prior to this Las Vegas Santa gig, Lauder toured with the Michigan opera and was in the first national tour of the Titanic: A New Musical. The baritone says music is close to his heart and family. His father was an opera singer and mother sang in big bands. His brother is deaf, which has never stopped him from attending any of Lauder's performances. A lot of productions are now adding sign-language interpreters to help the hearing impaired fully enjoy the show. DPAC offers interpreters for shows by request. Those needing assistance are seated in a special section with an interpreter.
DPAC is planning a special sensory-friendly performance of the Grinch on Saturday, Dec. 3, specifically for families and individuals on the autism spectrum or with other sensitivity issues. The show will feature fewer loud noises and flashing lights and there will be areas of the building designated as quiet areas for those who have to leave their seat during the show.
"Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical" runs Nov. 29 through Dec. 4 at DPAC.