Stage preview: Broadway star steps into role of Scrooge in CLO’s 'A Musical Christmas Carol'
December 8, 2016 12:00 AM
Patrick Page steps into the shoes of Dickens' holiday icon in "A Musical Christmas Carol."
Marco Attilio Petrucci plays Tiny Tim and Broadway star Patrick Page is Scrooge in Pittsburgh CLO's "A Musical Christmas Carol" at the Byham Theater.
By Sharon Eberson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Patrick Page’s vocal authority has marked him as a leading Broadway villain, from the Grinch to “The Lion King’s” Scar to “Spider-Man’s” the Green Goblin, and the other end of the scale — as the voice of God in “An Act of God.”
One stage role that has resonated throughout his career combines the good with the bad: Dickens’ scared-straight miser, Ebenezer Scrooge.
Mr. Page takes on the role again, this time for Pittsburgh CLO’s spiffed-up 25th anniversary edition of “A Musical Christmas Carol.”
There’s much that is new about the look of the show, from special effects to the curtains around Scrooge’s bed, and at the center of it all is Mr. Page, taking on a role that has long been associated with two Pittsburgh actors, Edmund Lyndeck and Tom Atkins.
Mr. Page finds the character irresistible, although he easily could have become a Scrooge about it.
‘A Musical Christmas Carol”
Where: Pittsburgh CLO at the Byham Theater, Downtown.
When: Friday through Dec. 23. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; noon, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday; noon and 4 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets: $32.75-$60.75 (half-price for children 3-14); 412-456-6666 or pittsburghCLO.org.
In 1998, the Theater at Madison Square Garden’s annual “big star” “Christmas Carol” cast The Who’s Roger Daltrey, with Mr. Page as Jacob Marley and the standby Scrooge. As can happen in New York in December, the rock singer became ill and missed about as many shows as he made.
Under most circumstances, Actor’s Equity requires a paper be placed in the program if the understudy is on. But because this was a 5,000-seat theater, Madison Square Garden was allowed to make an announcement instead.
The reason an announcement is frowned on is to avoid the groans and boos that ensue when audience members hear that the star will not appear, “which is not good for the morale of the player — especially not good if it’s a 5,000-seat house,” Mr. Page said in an understatement.
Each time it was announced that the role of Scrooge was to be played by Patrick Page, “you would hear 5,000 Who fans go ‘BOOOO!’ as loud as they could. It was nice in a way. It put me in the mood to be cranky at the top of the show.”
He laughs about it now, because most of his memories of “A Christmas Carol” are fond ones.
Mr. Page, in addition to being an actor who is constantly working, is an educator and playwright. In the mid-1980s, he adapted “A Christmas Carol” for a theater in his hometown of Monmouth, Ore. His father, Robert Page, a theater educator at Western Oregon University, had the role of Scrooge.
“He played it from the time he was 65 into his 80s,” Mr. Page said. “It became a signature for him,” and the adaptation has been used by many other companies.
Pittsburgh CLO’s version by writer-director-choreographer David H. Bell “is an amazing, moving, funny version of the piece,” Mr. Page said. “The folks in Pittsburgh are lucky to have this show about family and warmth and fun. I just want to take risks for him and make it as good as it can be.”
Mark Fleisher, who has been producer-director of the holiday show since 2014, said the new star and design elements are part of the goal of celebrating the 25th anniversary while honoring the show’s tradition.
D Martyn Bookwalter, the original designer, has continued to work on the David H. Bell show with companies around the country and said he has brought pieces from Atlanta and other cities to incorporate into the new look.
“We didn’t want to do a whole new production, because this is a beautiful production,” Mr. Fleischer said. “They way we thought about was, how do we unwrap a new present in some ways.”
On Monday, standing on the Byham Theater stage amid a swirl of activity, the director noted that Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is a dark ghost story, but it is also a story about redemption and reflecting on the past.
He said to watch for some color, some brightening and some magic.
“I don’t want to give too much away,” he said.
Some of the changes may seem obvious only to people who return year after year to see Tim Hartman and Terry Wickline as the Fezziwigs, Jeff Howell as Bob Cratchit, Daniel Krell as Jacob Marley and other longtime members of the “Musical Christmas Carol” cast.
New this year is Marco Attilio Petrucci as Tiny Tim, and of course, there’s the show’s new Scrooge, although he is not new to Pittsburgh. Mr. Page starred as Fagin in PCLO’s 2010 “Oliver!,” and the city is hometown to his wife, actress Paige Davis — some of the reasons he reworked a tight schedule to make the show happen.
Before heading here, he closed Nov. 20 in the off-Broadway Red Bull Theater’s modern-day version of Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus.” The New York Times’ Charles Isherwood described his performance as a Roman senator as “smooth, beautifully spoken … his suave baritone and patrician bearing ideally suited to the character.”
He also acted in “Julius Caesar” opposite Denzel Washington and Tamara Tunie on Broadway and received raves in the recent Broadway mounting of Deaf West’s “Spring Awakening,” playing the adult male roles in the show. He’s even used that “suave baritone” as the French candlestick Lumiere in “Beauty and the Beast.”
Every actor wants to play a variety of roles, and he knows how lucky he is to be able to stretch from the villains he has been most associated with throughout his career. Range is something he stresses as an educator as well and gave as example niche actors James Stewart (good guy) and Vincent Price (bad guy), who rarely got to show their other sides.
And then there are characters that challenge an actor to do both, and get into the holiday spirit as well.
“I adore Scrooge,” said Mr. Page, 54, who first played the role as a 20-something in a small California theater. “I’m always happy to return to him.”
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