The Story Behind the Photo: "A Christmas Carol" (Scrooge)

Tania Thompson
 | Nov 23, 2020
A Christmas Carol
Hal Landon Jr., Alex Knox and Erika Schindele in A Christmas Carol (2018). Photo by Jordan Kubat.

About A Christmas Carol

Recapture the spirit of an old-fashioned Christmas in 19th-century London with this timeless Dickens classic and all your favorite characters—Tiny Tim and the Cratchit family, the Fezziwigs, the Ghosts of Christmas past, present and yet-to-come—and Hal Landon Jr. as everyone's favorite curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge (“The quintessential Ebenezer Scrooge!” according to the Daily Pilot. The play was adapted by Jerry Patch and this production went on to a 40-year run with Landon as Scrooge.

Over the course of 40 years, Hal Landon Jr. portrayed miser-turned-good-man of Ebenezer Scrooge in South Coast Repertory’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It became the theatre’s ​beloved holiday ​tradition and a favorite play for Orange County residents. Landon selected the photo above as an important moment from the play.

What moment does this depict?

In this scene, the Ghost of Christmas Past has taken Scrooge to the Fezziwig’s Christmas party. This is where Scrooge sees his younger self dancing with Belle, the young woman who later became his fiancé.

How did you work to make this moment happen?

The only real difficulty we had was in staging the scene itself. It takes place while Belle and Young Ebenezer are dancing and, at the same time, the rest of the guests are dancing as well. Everyone had to be strategically placed so that, even though everyone is ​in motion, Belle and Young Ebenezer are the focal point. Fortunately, staging such a scene is one of John-David’s [John-David Keller] strengths as a director so, while it took plenty of rehearsal, the scene always worked.

What’s the power about this moment?

This scene is pivotal in the transformation of Scrooge from the cold-hearted miser we see at the beginning of the play to the kind and generous old man we see at the end. The characteristics we associate with Scrooge, such as greed, anger and suspicion, are the result of an unfortunate childhood. His mother died when he was a child, his father was abusive and, while Ebenezer was extremely close to his sister, Fan, sadly she died when he was still a boy. As a result, he was left feelweing precariously insecure. His remedy for this sense of insecurity became the acquisition of money. The more money he acquired, the more secure he felt; it was not long before this desire for wealth became an irrational obsession. However, before this obsession had taken hold of him, Scrooge was the young man he sees [pictured above, ​right, with his beloved Belle] at the Fezziwig’s party. ​The older Scrooge sees a young man capable of laughing, dancing and falling deeply in love with a spirited, compassionate and beautiful young woman. In the scene that follows, the Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge the graveyard where Belle’s father is about to be buried, and that's where we see a change has come over the young Scrooge. Avarice has begun to exert its influence on him. Belle, realizing the direction Scrooge is heading, decides to break off their engagement. The older Scrooge is so devastated by seeing what he has lost that, for the first time, he begins to question the values of the man he has become. And now, his transformation has finally begun.

Anything else you’d like to say about A Christmas Carol?

Yes—the considerable degree to which these scenes affected me as the actor playing Scrooge was due to Erika Schindele as Belle, Alex Knox as Young Ebenezer and Richard Doyle as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Erika’s depiction of Belle was so delightful that it was no wonder Young Ebenezer fell in love with her—and much later mourned her loss. Alex skillfully brought out the innocence and insecurity of Young Ebenezer and, later, his desperate quest for financial gain. And I cannot say enough about Richard’s performance as the Ghost of Christmas Past. We built the relationship between our characters over many years and its impact on my ability to sustain the role of Scrooge was immense.