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She's a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

West Deptford's Nance Waye Reeves takes on the role of the meanest holiday character this side of Scrooge.

Nance Waye Reeves has a decent resume, both professionally and personally. The West Deptford resident can lay claim to some pretty impressive titles. Sociology professor. Writer.  Actor. Wife and mother. Girl Scout leader and room mom.

And, just in time for the holiday season, she’s adding another one: Grinch.

Reeves has captured the role—and the spirit—of that iconic Dr. Seuss character, the Grinch, in the latest production by the Lucky Nickel Theatre Company of Barrington.

“It’s been really fun being the Grinch,” says Reeves, who lives in the township’s GreenFields section. “He is someone who we find out in the end really cares about the Whos and Christmas. I love that! The character turns around during the course of the play.”

The play, You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, is a mashup of the original classic Christmas cartoon and the feature film starring Jim Carrey. The play was originally suggested as the group’s annual holiday production by Nic Lukaits, son of LNT School for the Performing Arts founder Nicole DeRosa Lukaits.

“I thought it was a great idea, but found out no authorized stage version had been released,” Lukaits says. Sold on the idea, she didn’t let that stand on the way. Instead, she decided to do the adaption herself. With the help of some friends and the support of Lukaits’ family—all of who took roles in the production—You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch was scripted. The show opened on Friday and played to packed houses on opening night and Saturday. Tickets are still available for next weekend’s performances.

Even before the casting call went out, Reeves was a leading contender for the role of the small-hearted Grinch. “I thought of Nance right away. She’s done a great job in previous LNT productions,” Lukaits says. Following a vigorous audition process, Reeves landed the role in September. She started preparation, which included watching the 2000 Ron Howard/Jim Carrey version of How The Grinch Stole Christmas for the very first time.

“I watched the movie, and I thought about certain events and people that really brought frustration into my life,” Reeves says. “Then I put all that into the character.”

Along with developing the character and capturing the Grinch’s trademark snarly, nasty voice, Reeves also has to undergo a physical transformation before appearing on stage. She uses specially made green makeup to cover her skin, mimicking the Grinch’s sickly pallor. Then she teases her hair into a wild bird’s nest, which is also colored green with the use of tinted hair spray. The whole process takes about a half hour, Reeves says. It may be tedious, but it pays off when the mean, green Grinch—one of the holiday season’s most recognizable characters—appears on stage.

Of course, the combination of makeup, snarly voice and her nasty act may make Reeves a little too convincing as the Grinch. “A little girl cried the first night, and three kids were too scared to come near me (on Saturday),” Reeves says. So while signing autographs after the show, Reeves sometimes slips into “Mommy mode” around the younger kids. “I talk to them and explain I’m just acting,” she says. “Then they are OK.”

Reeves has been interested in acting since she was 14 and cast as “Princess Heya” in a Straw Wars, a summer camp take-off of Star Wars. This is her fourth production with LNT and her second “villain” role in a row. Last year, she appeared as the nemesis Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life. “It was fun to channel my male side,” Reeves says.

Next week, she’ll be tapping into her “Grinch side” for the final two performances of the show. After that, Reeves plans a traditional Christmas spending time with her husband Tim and children Caitlyn and Colin.

“We don’t get much time to spend together as a family because of our schedules, so we really cherish days like Christmas,” she says.

Reeves says we all could learn that lesson from Mr. Grinch himself.

“Getting the best present or most expensive present for others during Christmas time isn’t what Christmas is all about,” she says as she reflects on the Grinch. “It’s about spending time with your loved ones and cherishing that time, because time is precious.”

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