Before the Grinch stole Christmas, there was Ebenezer Scrooge – a sour and stingy crank synonymous with the selfish demeanour one must shed at this time of year.
The protagonist of Charles Dickens’ 1843 novel A Christmas Carol has been portrayed in every medium from silent films to musicals, comics and cartoons.
“I’ve seen every Christmas Carol there is on video and I love them all,” says Marcel Renaud, who plays Scrooge in a musical adaptation of the Dicken’s classic that opens in Maple Ridge next week.
Playing the infamous miser is letting Renaud explore his mean side.
“It was easier playing the bad guy than the good guy,” says Renaud, who has been working on his “Scrooge” since July.
By the time rehearsals for the Emerald Pig and SPECC-Tacular co-production began in earnest in fall, Renaud had memorized all his lines, which gave him a chance to perfect his ill-tempered, lonely character.
Set in Victorian London, Scrooge’s journey from a penny-pinching grouch to a generous, happy soul comes alive with 60 talented actors and dancers.
Surprisingly, being unkind, contemptible and downright hateful was rather easy for Renaud. It was Scrooge’s transformation, following visits from his dead partner and three ghosts, that stumped him.
“Everybody loves to play the villain. That part I found a lot of fun,” he says. “It certainly is a lot more work every time I do the scenes where I am starting to change.”
Michael DeMaio’s beautiful music and songs helped Renaud with that transformation and he expects the music to have a similar tear-evoking, lump-in-the-throat effect on the audience.
“One of the songs is about reassessing my own soul. It really helps when I let myself get carried away in song and singing,” says Renaud.
“I am hoping that the audience is emotionally caught up in it by then because I have gone through great lengths at the beginning to make them really hate me.”
The troupe of dedicated actors and dancers, ready to give all for even the smallest part, make Sharon Malone emotional.
Directing A Christmas Carol has allowed her to reflect on its themes and count her blessings.
“There is oppression in the world and so many bad things that are going on. It is one of those things that is a small joy,” says Malone, who is sharing directing duties with Ed Marshall of SPECC-tacular.
“We are so privileged to live in a part of the world where we get to do things like go to the theatre and enjoy being with our families.”
A Christmas Carol is a celebration of Christmas and the good it inspires. It speaks of redemption, free will and was a damning critique of Victorian society when published in 1843.
“I think the relevance today is amazing,” says Malone, pointing to the Occupy movement, which protests global financial inequality and corporate greed.
“I think we need messages like this to help us to have hope for the future.”
A Christmas Carol, a musical by Michael DeMaio, runs from Tuesday, Dec. 13 to Saturday, Dec. 17 at the ACT in Maple Ridge. Evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. from Tuesday to Friday and 6 p.m. on Saturday. There is a matinee at noon on Saturday. Tickets: 604-476-2787.