REVIEW: “A Christmas Carol” — South Coast Repertory

Updated: Dec 6, 2021

"The Perennial Dickens Classic is Back! And Not Just in Spirit!"

After 37 years of playing various characters in the 1857 classic Dickens holiday favorite, South Coast Repertory founding member and veteran actor, Richard Doyle, steps into the lead role of Ebenezer Scrooge in this year’s production of “A Christmas Carol,” a role held and memorialized for forty years by the venerable, now-retired, Hal Landon, Jr. Adapted by Jerry Patch and based on the original staging by John-David Keller, “A Christmas Carol” runs through Dec. 26th on the Segerstrom Stage in their 41st annual production.

SCR Founding Member Richard Doyle taking over the top hat and scarf as Ebenezer Scrooge has been a natural career progression, having held various roles in the show for over 37 years—not to mention participating in over 200 SCR productions. Star of stage and screen, his extensive career has included many commercial and animation character voices as well. Over a decade ago, Doyle was tapped by “The Pageant of the Masters” in Laguna Beach to be the live show narrator for their unique per annum event, where you may have heard his familiar baritone voice inspiriting the audience at any performance to “enjoy the show.”

Joining him on center stage for this year’s production is his real-life wife, Jennifer Parsons, who replaces Doyle in the fascinating role of the Spirit of Christmas Past, a part he played for three decades. Parsons, also a long-time member of the cast, performed the role of Mrs. Cratchit in the play since 2004.

Hisa Takakuwa, director for SCR’s award-winning Theatre Conservatory, takes the helm as director of “A Christmas Carol” this year, having spent 14 years as assistant director to John-David Keller on Orange County’s annual holiday tradition. Prior to that, she also performed for 14 years in a variety of roles, including Sally.

So, how has this show achieved such notoriety? Well, before all the movies, television adaptations, and stage plays; before the animated versions, the children's theatre versions, and every sitcom's "holiday episode;" before all of this, Charles Dickens wrote a short story called "A Christmas Carol." The story (which only took Dickens six weeks to write) centers upon the redemption of Scrooge, whose very name now epitomizes greed and miserliness, a heartless man of business who seems to thrive on the despair of others. Scrooge offers no pity toward the poor, and his heartless tirade at the esteemed couple who comes collecting for the poor on Christmas Eve (“If they would rather die… they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population”) sticks out as the most incriminating indictment of his character.

Richard Doyle is on stage for almost the entire play providing the show’s driving force and portraying all of the shadings and layers of the character—gruff, conflicted, reflective, joyful and sad. His body language mirrors his emotions, heavy and rough in the beginning—but at the end when Scrooge says he feels as "light as a feather," just watch how Mr. Doyle floats around the stage.

The cast—a splendid group of stage veterans and solid regional actors, many back in their familiar roles—includes Daniel Blinkoff, again heartwarming as Scrooge’s put-upon clerk, Bob Cratchit. His scenes with his family are touching and sincere, and the way he quakes around the stern Scrooge is exactly the way someone with a horrendous boss would react. Art Koustik is back as Joe, the scurrilous cider salesman; and William Francis McGuire’s (Solicitor/Gentlemen) turn as Fezziwig, Scrooge&#