Snow is falling throughout our theater, and holiday cheer abounds with our 42nd annual A Christmas Carol now on stage. We talked to Jude Sandy, who plays Ebenezer Scrooge, now that the show is open, as a follow up to our conversation with him before rehearsals started.
Caitlin Howle: First and foremost – A Christmas Carol is here. How do you feel?
Jude Sandy: I feel a mixture of elation, focus, and exhaustion. Earning the redemption and joy we find in this story is hard work! And this production is so precisely, finely and athletically tuned that it takes intense attention and simultaneously a kind of surrender to make it work eight or more shows a week. It’s a huge experience that we all have in A Christmas Carol, both for us performing and for the audience participating in it. And it’s the magnitude of Scrooge’s trial and transformation that makes this story a classic. I feel I owe it to every single audience to be as honest and naked and committed as possible in every performance.
CH: What has been your favorite moment since opening night?
JS: There so many encounters I relish in this play, so it’s really hard to choose. But I have to admit that my favorite moment comes with Tiny Tim. When he holds my hand and says “Bless you” and later when he says “God bless us all, everyone,” he gives all of us in the theater a benediction like no other. It’s a moment of profound affirmation of that biblical reference: “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise.”
CH: What’s been your favorite audience interaction moment?
JS: Haha! No spoilers, but every performance Scrooge enlists a = audience member pretty early in the show, as he prepares to leave the office. It’s Ebenezer at his most mean, and it catches the whole audience off guard, and they love it! It sets up our relationship for the rest of play, and makes it clear to everyone that through thick and thin, we’re in this together. And it gives that lucky person gets bragging rights that they know first-hand what it’s like to experience Scrooge’s callousness.
CH: How physical is it to be Scrooge?
JS: It’s the most athletic workout I’ve experienced on stage, physically, vocally and emotionally. You may not think of A Christmas Carol as a musical per se, but we’re out there singing and dancing and acting our hearts out through this epic adventure. The Fezziwig celebration has more dancing in it that I’ve ever seen, and I think our Scrooge dances more this year than he perhaps ever has. Here’s a little backstage secret: I’m so completely drenched in sweat by the end of act one, that I have to do a full costume change during the intermission, underwear included!
CH: What do you think the most important part of A Christmas Carol is?
JS: Oh my! I think it’s the moment Scrooge wakes up and sees himself and the audience anew. In this year’s production, Scrooge jolts awake, discovers the audience watching him, slowly takes them in and calls them “Spirits.” Then he professes to them that he will be different. It’s a moment of asking forgiveness and forging a new covenant. It’s a very emotional moment for me every night, to look our audience members in the eye, to address them as beings of light in the world, to acknowledge the cruelty that is in our world, the cruelties that we all suffer, and to profess to our community that I will do my humble best to honor them from now on with kindness and generosity.
CH: What’s it like acting with all those kids?
JS: It’s one of the greatest gifts of doing this play. The “young professionals” as our director Kate Bergstrom affectionately calls them, are so honest in their artistry, and it’s a joy to be onstage with them. We have two casts of young actors which alternate throughout the week, and they each have their unique personalities and their unique interpretations of their roles! So it’s often the most exciting part of the show to be with them because they’re always finding something new to throw at us and it’s a breath of fresh air. The kids are wild and smart and disarming and they have the wickedest sense of humor. And honestly, they’re often acting circles around us old fogies onstage!