WASHINGTON — After seven memorable years, the nation’s capital bids farewell to its annual Scrooge as actor Ed Gero hangs up the “humbug.”
“This is my first time playing Scrooge,” actor Craig Wallace told WTOP. “I have been in ‘A Christmas Carol’ before. I played the Ghost of Jacob Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Past. I’ve basically been plugged into Ed’s role. Ed is a great friend and mentor of mine. So it’s been a whirlwind, but I think I’m finally owning it, and I think people are enjoying it, and I think people are going to have a good time.”
Based on Charles Dickens’ timeless 1843 novella, the play follows London miser Ebenezer Scrooge as he’s visited by four spirits on Christmas Eve: his late business partner Jacob Marley, the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Together, these time-traveling spirits show Scrooge what was, what is and what might be, transforming him from a greedy curmudgeon into a generous soul that shows charity to Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim.
“People love the spirit of Christmas,” Wallace said. “The lesson of redemption, charity, compassion.”
Unlike other “A Christmas Carol” productions, this annual version is packed with Christmas carols.
“It’s got a lot of traditional songs from the time period,” said co-star Gregory Maheu, who plays both young Ebenezer Scrooge and Scrooge’s optimistic nephew Fred. “It has this amazing orchestration that’s all instruments that would have been played in the 1850s, so you get a real taste of the time.”
These carols include “Joy to the World,” “The Holly and the Ivy,” “What Child Is This,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Deck the Halls” and a rousing rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
“There’s a great scene where two of my debtors discover some happiness and they go off singing ‘Deck the Halls,'” Wallace said. “I say, ‘Why are you showing me this?’ And Christmas Present says, ‘Because even in their meager life, they can find the joy of Christmas, the joy of the season.’ Allowing himself to see those things brings himself to the end. The end is: This is where you’re headed, your name on a tombstone. He’s gotta make a choice there: Does he want to live? Or does he want to die?”
These darker, ghostly elements have always been a huge part of the Dickensian appeal. Adapted by Michael Wilson and directed by Michael Baron, this visceral version is subtitled “A Ghost Story of Christmas,” emphasizing the supernatural with flashing lights, crashing sounds and special effects.
“Without giving anything away, let’s just say that Marley [James Konicek] has been haunting Scrooge, especially on Christmas Eve, and Marley pays him a visit in his bedroom,” Wallace said. “We don’t want to give away the effects, but it’s very, very compelling. It’s so much fun to do. And it’s spooky!”
Marley isn’t the only ghost given a grand entrance at Ford’s.
“Felicia Curry plays the Ghost of Christmas Past. She’s amazing and her entrance is breathtaking,” Wallace said. “The Ghost of Christmas Present is Barbara Pinolini. Her entrance is absolutely joyous and huge and a whole lot of fun. And the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come? A very scary apparition, even scarier than Marley in some ways. But the progression of the ghosts definitely takes a journey.”
These ghosts are more than just a magical plot element: They drive his character’s transformation.
“The ghosts put a mirror up to Scrooge’s face,” Wallace said. “Things he hadn’t seen before, he begins to see. Seeing Belle [Lauren Williams] and her breaking up with him [“May you be happy in the life you’ve chosen”], that’s part of what makes him who he is now, that heartbreak, that disappointment. He wouldn’t admit that, but [The Ghost of Christmas] Past puts it up to his face and he can’t deny it.”
Not only does he learn from his past mistakes, his eyes are opened to his present-day surroundings.
“He’s never seen the Cratchit kids before,” Wallace said. “He doesn’t know anything about Tiny Tim. … To see them, to see how meager they are, how much they love each other and they’ve got a child who’s disabled, he’s got to deal with that. Through the progression of the play, he’s constantly having to deal with things that he’s never addressed personally or that he’s never allowed himself to see.”
The hope is that audiences will have a similar eye-opening experience.
“The show is not only a mirror for Scrooge; it can also be a mirror for audience members,” Maheu said. “It’s easy to become self-involved … without thinking about the community, to become fearful and to hold onto what you have. The show provides an opportunity for people to see that when you invest in your community and you invest in those around you, you can live a much fuller and happier life.”
In fact, audiences can participate in a tangible way with the show’s annual charity drive.
“The group that we’re partnered with this year is called Food and Friends,” Wallace said. “It’s a local organization that provides meals and groceries to people with life-challenging illnesses.”
“They’ve been around since 1988,” Maheu added. “Their main focus was people suffering with HIV and AIDS. Since then, they’ve grown significantly in their scope. They deal with men, women and children who suffer from cancer, HIV, other life-challenging illnesses. They provide food and nutrition counseling for people to help them figure out how to eat healthy for their own individual problems.”
Not only is it a good cause, it’s a good old-fashioned fun night at the theater. So whether you come every year as part of a family tradition or this is your first time, it’s absolutely worth a trip to Ford’s.
“It’s fun, it’s joyous, it’s fast,” Wallace said. “Please come out. Share some Christmas cheer with us.”
Check out our entire conversation with the cast of “A Christmas Carol” at Ford’s Theatre below:
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