Perhaps some holiday cheer might help scrub the grudge off the coldest of hearts. This month, the Whidbey Playhouse is happy to provide this remedy with its version of “A Christmas Carol,” based on the homonymous book by English novelist Charles Dickens.
The play tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an old man as pleasant as his name sounds, whose personality and attitude towards life miraculously changes over the course of a night — not coincidentally, on Christmas.
Ben Honeycutt plays Scrooge, a role which he found to be fun but also someone he feels deep sympathy for as he starts as the kind of person no one would want to be.
“It’s an acting challenge,” Honeycutt said, just before any trace of his friendly personality disappeared from his face, only to be possessed by the spirit of pre-change Scrooge. Suddenly, he was speaking with the voice of a crotchety old man who hates people and interviews.
This is the first time the Playhouse is presenting the play after the last show in 2017. Honeycutt, who has reprised his role, said his portrayal of Scrooge is much deeper and emotional, and hopes his unpleasantness and suffering can inspire the audience to take a look at themselves and become kinder people.
“I like doing parts that speak to people,” he said under the aging makeup and the hair whitened by white shoe polish that look quite believable under the stage lights.
Susan Larsen plays one of the four madrigals in the story, omniscient characters who sing and narrate the events. She said she hopes the play will encourage the audience to reach out to others, as lonely people can feel particularly isolated and sad during the holidays.
Others might feel like Ellie Alexander, who plays another madrigal, and simply want to forget the harsh reality of the world for a few hours and escape to Victorian-era London, “where people can change overnight and rich people become super generous,” as they said.
There are more reasons that make this story a timeless classic, such as the portrayal of class struggle, which Honeycutt said is not “terribly” far from the reality many face today. Additionally, the story gives people hope they can change for the better, too.
“Hopefully you don’t have to undergo all the nonsense that Scrooge goes through,” Honeycutt said. “(But) no matter how old you are, and how deep into the weeds you may have gotten into something, you can change and you can become a different person.”
“A Christmas Carol” was one of Lachlan Waterbury’s favorite holiday stories growing up. Waterbury plays the Ghost of Christmas Present, a character who could be described as a mix of Santa Claus and God. Waterbury hopes to make the audience feel as happy as he felt when he was a child.
Eric George directed the play, which was adapted by Playhouse actor and director Stan Thomas.
George found this to be his most challenging directing experience, but said it was fun nevertheless. Normally, they would have nine to 12 weeks to prepare before press night, but bringing back “A Christmas Carol” was sort of a last-minute decision, he said.
The 39-people cast — which included many young children — and crew had only seven weeks to prepare, from the moment auditions opened to press night, which was on Nov. 30.
George said the idea came from the perception that the community was craving a Christmas-themed show. He is excited to bring back the play, which, he clarified, “is a redo. Not a repeat.”
The show in fact features a Victorian Regency style dance that happens in the book, danced to the sound of a pennywhistle played by one of the cast members.
“I don’t think it’s ever been done on the Playhouse stage before tonight,” George said the day of press night.
The show will take the stage on Dec. 8-17, with tickets available for the 2:30 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. shows. Tickets can be purchased at whidbeyplayhouse.com or at the box office, located at 730 Southeast Midway in Oak Harbor.