THE ROSTER of actors who've portrayed Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" encompasses a dizzying array of names, from Lionel Barrymore (on radio) to Bill Murray and Mr. Magoo.But at Princeton's McCarter Theatre, the role has become synonymous with Graeme Malcolm, who yesterday marked his 100th performance as the cold-hearted banker whose life is transformed after ghostly visitations during the early hours of Christmas. The critically acclaimed production continues through Dec. 29.
Scottish by heritage, Malcolm was raised in London and today lives in the United States. His numerous TV credits include character roles on "Law & Order" and "Boardwalk Empire." On Broadway, he has appeared in "Equus" and "The King and I," among other hits. Daily News theater columnist Chuck Darrow spoke with him last week.
Q What was your first exposure to "A Christmas Carol?"
I don't actually know. I don't have any memory of it. It's just one of those things that are firmly imprinted in one's consciousness growing up in Britain.
We understand the word "Scrooge" before we've read the story.
Q Do you have a favorite portrayal of Scrooge?
No. I don't. I deliberately haven't watched any performance of "Christmas Carol" since I started here because I didn't think it would be useful.
Q Where does Ebenezer Scrooge rank in terms of the characters you've played?
He ranks really highly, both as a character and as a theatrical experience.
Scrooge is onstage the entire time, so in that respect, it's a challenging role. His emotional arc is quite huge - and seems to touch me, other cast members and members of the audience in a fairly powerful way with the message of transformation being possible.
As he says, "What would have been may be dispelled if we just wake up." We all need to wake up sometimes and smell the roses.
Q How has your portrayal of Scrooge changed since you started doing "A Christmas Carol?"
I try and make it fresh and different every night, which requires concentrating and listening and being aware of what different rhythms are being thrown at me and what different rhythms are breaking for me at that particular moment.
It's not so much a deliberate decision to do one thing or the other. It's a decision to remain awake.
As I've become more familiar with the role, I feel like I take possession of it as my own, rather than inheriting somebody else's performance. It becomes a fuller and richer experience for all, I hope.
Q Why do you think "A Christmas
Carol" continues to resonate so
Charles Dickens set out initially to write a paper, or treatise, on the exploitation of children and then realized to do it in a fictional form would be more successful.
So that's one of the things that I think appeals to people - that we're being reminded to, again, wake up to the situation that some children in the world are not being treated as they should be.
Then, it's a cracking good ghost story. Most of us - children and adults - love a good ghost story.