British Columbia

'I'm redeemed, darlings': Why Scrooge is still scrounging around stage

Two performers, both involved in very different adaptations of Scrooge, explain how they breathe new life into the cold-hearted, Christmas-despising miser.

Two Vancouver performers explain why story resonates so strongly

Victorian-era miser Ebenezer Scrooge (voiced by Jim Carrey) is taken on a journey of self-discovery in the animated retelling of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. (Walt Disney Pictures)

He's a Christmas character with one of the most famous lines in literature. Ever since Charles Dickens first published A Christmas Carol in 1843, Ebenezer Scrooge has muttered 'Bah, humbug' across hundreds of adaptations and remakes of the classic story.

But what does it take to play such an iconic character on stage?

Two performers, both involved in very different adaptations of Scrooge, explain how they breathe new life into the cold-hearted, Christmas-despising miser, and why the story of his redemption still resonates more than a century and half later. 

"These days, cynicism is being marketed to us and to have a story where a character can literally change their heart, I think, is uplifting and it is the spirit of the season," said Ronnie Burkett, puppet master in the show Little Dickens.

The puppet Esmé Massengill, pictured here in a previous performance, plays Scrooge in Little Dickens. (Alejandro Santiago/The Cultch )

Diva as Scrooge

Burkett's version of the Christmas tale is a raucous and merry marionette mash-up with puppets taking to the stage.

Choosing the right puppet for the role wasn't difficult, Burkett told CBC host of The Early Edition Rick Cluff.

He chose a female puppet character — that of aging diva ​Esmé Massengill — from his company to play Ebenezer Scrooge. That character was "a natural for the role." Burkett said.

"I didn't have to look far to see who the Scrooge character was."

Burkett said he is careful to ensure it's clear to the audience why the grouchy character has a change of heart and what sparks the final redemption.

"The redemption actually comes from somewhere rather than just tagging it on at the end saying 'I'm redeemed, darlings,'' he said.

Russell Roberts plays Scrooge in Gateway Theatre’s rendition of A Christmas Carol. (David Cooper/Gateway Theatre)

Message of redemption

Russell Roberts, who plays Scrooge in Gateway Theatre's more classical rendition of A Christmas Carol, said the message of redemption is key to the story's on-going popularity.

"He does have a heart, it's just that he's lost it temporarily," he said. "I love playing him."

Everyone has a bit of Scrooge in them, he said, and that's why it resonates so strongly. "It's also hope that we can be redeemed or redeem ourselves."

A Christmas Carol is running at Gateway Theatre with Roberts as Scrooge until Dec. 24 and Burkett'sLittle Dickens is playing at The Cultch until Dec. 22.

To hear more, click on the audio link below:

With files from The Early Edition.