Campbell Scott, with his patrician good looks, may not seem like the most obvious Ebenezer Scrooge. But then, neither did his dad, George C. Scott, whose TV film version 35 years ago proved that sometimes an unexpected Scrooge can be a lot of fun to watch.
There’s plenty that’s unexpected in Broadway’s new take on the Charles Dickens holiday classic “A Christmas Carol,” which opens Wednesday at the Lyceum Theatre and runs through Jan. 5. Directed by Matthew Warchus ("Matilda the Musical") and adapted for the stage by Jack Thorne (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”), this production earned critical praise when it ran at London’s Old Vic theater. The basic storyline is the same, with greedy holiday hater Scrooge (Scott) being visited by three ghosts (this time, all female—with the delightful Andrea Martin as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Broadway vet LaChanze as Christmas Present). This version also packs in a dozen carols (“Joy to the World,” “Silent Night”) and a raucous interactive element that Dickens never saw coming.
Scott, 58, recently seen in “House of Cards” and the “Spider-Man” films, will co-star in the new Netflix series “Soundtrack,” which debuts Dec. 18. He spoke with Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio.
So here’s my Christmas Eve tradition. Every year, after a big family gathering, my father and I sit down to watch “A Christmas Carol” — no offense to your dad, but our fave is the 1951 film starring Alastair Sim. My dad knows the lines by heart, though he usually falls asleep shortly after “Bah, humbug!” and awakens when they’re buying the turkey for Tiny Tim. It’s a cherished tradition.
Yes. … (He laughs.) It’s a little intimidating, tackling a show people know so well.
I wondered about that.
Because this version is not exactly the same as [those earlier films], it takes a little of the pressure off. You may miss some moments, but at the same time you get to see something new … that’s kind of thrilling. When I first signed up, I thought, “Well, this’ll be a delightful romp.” What I wasn’t prepared for was two hours of running around. I’m literally leaping offstage in a 10-second break to get some water and then I’m back out there.
What aspects of Scrooge’s personality do you identify with?
The angry Scrooge is easy, for some reason. I guess I must be angry. Although you wouldn’t know it if you met me on the street. The changed and vulnerable Scrooge is much more demanding.
Do you think people can really change like that?
Well, listen, Dickens started this, right? It’s archetypal. For some reason you and I, we sit around with our dads, or whomever, and watch it every year. Like “It’s a Wonderful Life.” And we don’t get sick of it. The idea of someone who gets to a place and they can’t continue or don’t want to — and they make a flip, a turn. How much does it ever really happen? It probably does, but maybe in smaller stages. But it’s certainly a very attractive idea to all of us.
Of all the “Christmas Carols” out there, which is your favorite?
Well … for childhood reasons, I have to go with Alastair Sim.
Oh! I thought for sure you’d say your dad’s version.
I love my dad’s, I think it’s great. It’s one of the few things he ever did that was incredibly accessible. For my money, it was really smart, well-made, and I loved watching him do stuff like that. He was known for playing big, angry sort of characters, but he was a great comedian. I loved when he went out of his comfort area. Or out of what people expected of him. So his Scrooge was meaningful to a lot of people.
Of course, you one-up him because this version also includes actual Christmas carols.
I love it. I’m not a devout Christian in any organized way, but if we have any kind of Christmas sensibility, those carols mean something to us.
Speaking of music of a slightly different sort, what’s this new Netflix series of yours called “Soundtrack?”
It’s a compelling and interesting show from Josh Safran [executive producer of “Gossip Girl”]. It has a lot of singing and dancing in it.
So we’ll hear you sing?
Ummm … it’s impossible to describe. You will see me … doing musical things. That’s all I can say.
Hmm … mysterious. I’ve read bits here and there about the show, something about romance in L.A., but the plot description is always vague. Is that the idea?
I think, yes. When the trailer comes out in the beginning of December, people will be like, "Ohhhh, I see." Till then, it’s a good mystery.