While there are no debtors' prisons or workhouses these days, Dickens' classic seems as vigorously relevant now as ever. Maybe that's why there are three "Carols" running or opening this week on Long Island.
Meet the three Scrooges.
This is the 22nd year that Sanzel, artistic director of Theatre Three in Port Jefferson, has played Ebenezer. When he started, Sanzel powdered his hair and muttonchops for the part. Now, both are naturally graying. Sanzel also writes his own adaptation of Dickens and directs himself and a cast of 25.
"This year, I went for a darker Scrooge," Sanzel says. "I wanted to focus on the bad choices he's made in life. . . . This is a much angrier Scrooge, much more destructive, with a bigger uphill climb to save himself. So his redemption becomes much more exhilarating."
Sanzel pauses before adding, "I have the advantage of being the adapter, director and actor. We don't argue much."
WHEN | WHERE: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday, through Dec. 26, at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, 631-928-9100, theatrethree.com
Friday's opening of a musical "Carol" marks Brady's second time as Scrooge for Gateway Playhouse. He's played nearly every adult role in "A Christmas Carol" from coast to coast: Bob Cratchit three times, Jacob Marley twice. Even Mrs. Fezziwig. "But I had to grow into Scrooge," he says.
Among other credits, the New York-based actor appeared with Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehy in Broadway's "Inherit the Wind," toured Europe and Asia in "West Side Story," and starred at Gateway in "Hello, Dolly!"
Gateway resurrects the Alan Mencken-Lynn Ahrens version of "Carol," which packed Madison Square Garden for a decade of holiday seasons, ending in 2005. It's a spectacle that features a Scrooge capable of making merry. In that spirit, Brady, a baritone, tries to "find humor" as the singing Ebenezer, whom he sees as "a damaged soul."
For this stay-at-home Island Park dad, "A Christmas Carol" is truly a family show. Both his children have joined him onstage in five seasons as Scrooge for East Meadow-based Spotlight Players. Co-starring with Upbin is his 7-year-old youngest, Benjamin, who plays Tiny Tim.
Spotlight's "Carol" is a mash-up of lighter musical interpretations - from Mr. Magoo to the Muppets. Upbin, a tenor, says "I Hate People" (from the 1970 film "Scrooge") captures Scrooge's pre-redemptive spirit.
Director Vinnie Sparagano originally cast him as Cratchit. But Upbin won the Scrooge part a few weeks before opening night. "It's a demanding role," Upbin says. "You never leave the stage." As for Scrooge's iconic line, Upbin repeats it throughout. "It's kind of awkward. So I wait a couple of beats. 'Bah' - and then 'humbug!' "
ADMISSION: $15 ($12 ages under 16)
A kid-friendly show
Kid-friendly "A Christmas Carol" plays one morning only, starring Christopher Yates as Scrooge. Running about 90 minutes, this musical "Carol" is presented by New Jersey-based Yates Musical Theatre for Children.
WHEN | WHERE: 11 a.m. Thursday at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury, 960 Brush Hollow Rd., 800-745-3000, livenation.com
ADMISSION: $16.50 (plus a $9 service charge)