5 Questions from Over the Pond: Campbell Scott & Paterson Joseph
It's Ebenezer Scrooge vs Ebenezer Scrooge in our Christmas Carol showdown...
Joy to the World! This month's festive edition of 5 Questions from Over the Pond sees Campbell Scott and Paterson Joseph, representing the New York and London productions of A Christmas Carol, respectively, going head-to-head.
The role of Ebenezer Scrooge is arguably as iconic as the Charles Dickens classic tale of redemption itself and countless actors have had the privilege of playing the mean-spirited miser over the years. From radio to film and from stage to animation, there have been many memorable performances, including those from the likes of Alastiar Sim, Michael Caine, Guy Pearce, and even Jim Carrey to name just a few. This current incarnation of A Christmas Carol, adapted by Harry Potter and the Cursed Child scribe Jack Thorne and directed by Matilda The Musical's Matthew Warchus, debuted at London's Old Vic for the 2017 holiday season. Welsh actor Rhys Ifans, who is about to star as another literary icon after being cast as Atticus Finch in the West End transfer of To Kill a Mockingbird, would originate the role of Scrooge in that production. And due to popular demand, A Christmas Carol would return to the Old Vic in 2018, this time headlined by Stephen Tompkinson.
But for the very first time, the Old Vic production is now delighting audiences and spreading festive cheer on both sides of the Atlantic! The London production is now led by UK stage and screen favorite Paterson Joseph for its third consecutive holiday engagement, whilst the Broadway premiere at the Lyceum Theatre stars Campbell Scott, who many will recognize from his TV roles on the likes of Netflix's "House of Cards," "Royal Pains" on the USA Network, "Damages" on FX, and AMC's "Dietland."
In addition, the Broadway production has really got into the spirit of giving by officially partnering up with the non profit organization Hearts of Gold, who are dedicated to bettering the lives of homeless mothers and their children in New York City.
Although there are other festive offerings in New York City this year (including a world-first from Cirque du Soleil and the usual Rockettes spectacular), for our money, A Christmas Carol has to be the classiest choice for those looking to treat the whole family this holiday season. Boasting a plethora of beautifully arranged Christmas carols (kudos to Christopher Nightingale) and immersive staging under the warmth of hundreds of Dickensian lanterns, this new production works diligently to ensure we the audience feel a part of the tale... as well as a guest at the final feast, of course. But the play would simply fall apart without a strong leading man, who almost never leaves the stage for its entire duration. So, God bless Campbell Scott and Paterson Joseph, every one!
And so, before you can cry "Bah, Humbug!," we'll let these two talented Scrooges take it away with 5 Questions from Over the Pond...
1) Paterson: Which is easier for you, grumpy Scrooge or happy Scrooge?
Campbell: Surprisingly, mean Scrooge is the easiest. He's on such a track in life and there's a confidence about someone who has made his decisions and knows he is right about himself and the world. Happy Scrooge is more exhausting just because of the structure of the show and all the running around. Vulnerable Scrooge is the hardest.
2) Paterson: Is the speed of the show a constant surprise for you, too?
Campbell: Oh my God! When we got to the first full run-throughs in the rehearsal room I kept feeling like we must have left something out. This show is a runaway train, and because of its episodic nature, and the fact that Scrooge hardly leaves the stage, there is no time for reflection. Because we just started with audiences I will report that they help a bit with this - helpful that they take their place as the last piece in the puzzle and do a little of the work.
3) Paterson: What challenges you the most about playing Scrooge?
Campbell: Because of the history of the story, the archetypical (is that a word) nature of the character, and my own history as an audience for both, I figured this would be a fun romp in the theater. I forgot how truly deep Dickens' work is, and Jack and Matthew's take on it is contemporary and in many ways unforgiving. So I was unprepared for the emotional energy required. It's a rebirth story, a redemption story, and that's downright religious (in the personal sense of the word) ultimately.
4) Paterson: I can be a bit ‘Grinchy’ at Christmas these days. Has playing Scrooge helped your ‘Grinchy’ side at all?
Campbell: I am outwardly reserved and a bit isolated (bordering on misanthropic) by choice in real life. And not religious in the organized sense. However, Christmas as a feeling has always meant a lot to me - the smells, the lights, the idea that people may "open their shut-up hearts freely" during this time. And the music - this show, Chris' compositions and our wonderful band and singers and handbell playing gets me every time.
5) Paterson: I’m guessing you have Christmas lunch at home. But if you were to pick a New York spot for it, where would you choose?
Campbell: I rarely go out (see previous answer) but I have friends who go to Cafe Un Deux Trois every year at this time and they have all the tables singing to each other and participating. It's pretty magical. In fact, any place or ritual that celebrates people putting down their damn phones and actually communicating with one another is to be supported. Wow, that sounded appropriately Scroogey! Nailed it!
Break a leg, Paterson!
Check out Broadway star Campbell Scott's 5 questions for London's leading man Paterson Joseph on our London Theatre Guide sister site here!
And check out our New York Theatre VIDEO Guide to A Christmas Carol below...
A Christmas Carol Tickets are available now for performances through January 5, 2020.