'Huge slippers to fill': Veteran Christmas Carol actor lands dream function of Scrooge

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Simply as his character should do, Theatre Calgary’s new Scrooge revisits the previous whereas giving us a glimpse of the longer term.

When the curtain rises on the theatre’s thirty sixth manufacturing of A Christmas Carol on Nov. 30, native actor Doug McKeag shall be starring as Ebenezer Scrooge, the enduring function Stephen Hair performed for 27 years.

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“I’ll be dedicating my efficiency to Stephen. He established the franchise. He was Scrooge. I’m taking the torch and working with it, understanding these are huge slippers to fill,” says McKeag, who isn’t any rookie relating to the play. This shall be his tenth time showing in A Christmas Carol, and his thirty third present with Theatre Calgary.

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“My first Carol was in all probability in 1993. I performed Topper, one of many visitors at Scrooge’s nephew Fred’s Christmas occasion. I then graduated to enjoying Fred, and ultimately to enjoying Outdated Fezziwig, which is the place I settled in. I wasn’t lean sufficient to play Bob Cratchit.”

McKeag says being solid in A Christmas Carol was life-changing.

“I used to be younger and, as an actor, transferring round quite a bit. Christmas simply wasn’t that vital to me. Being in A Christmas Carol woke up me to the potential glory of the season. It actually modified my thoughts and coronary heart about Christmas. There was an incredible spirit within the room throughout rehearsals and on the stage. I wasn’t precisely Scrooge, however I wanted an awakening, too.”

McKeag says he sees A Christmas Carol “as one man evaluating his life. Scrooge is his previous, making an attempt to see why he ended up being merciless and alone. The ghosts aren’t his judges. They’re his guides. He’s not being punished, simply being given the chance to vary. It’s an exquisite thought actually. I really like that Scrooge says he’s too outdated to vary. Nobody is just too outdated actually, and that’s Dickens’ message.”

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There may be one other connection McKeag feels he has with Scrooge.

“When the Ghost of Christmas Previous takes Scrooge again to his boarding college days, I do know precisely how he feels. I went to a non-public college in Winnipeg. I used to be too delicate for that have. I didn’t recognize the cruelty. It turned me into a really empathetic man. Sadly, that didn’t occur for Scrooge, and that’s what he has to confront within the scene with the Christmas Previous.

“I don’t must manufacture any of the feelings for Scrooge. They arrive naturally to me. Perhaps that’s what (director) Stafford Arima and (playwright) Geoffrey Simon Brown noticed in me throughout my audition.”

A Christmas Carol
Doug McKeag as Scrooge and Laura Desmaris as Tiny Tim in Theatre Calgary’s manufacturing of the seasonal traditional A Christmas Carol. Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia

Theatre Calgary solid a large internet when it introduced auditions for the function of Scrooge. Arima and Brown would ultimately see greater than a dozen actors earlier than they selected McKeag, who says it’s solely pure so many actors submitted their names.

“I do know that I’ve had my eye on the function for some time. It’s a kind of dream roles for an older man, however there are only a few alternatives to do it.”

Edward Atienza, a British actor and common at Canada’s Stratford Pageant, was Theatre Calgary’s first Scrooge in 1983, adopted by one other Stratford alumnus, Roland Hewgill, in 1984. Eric Schneider performed Scrooge thrice, after which Les Carlson twice earlier than Stephen Hair took over for 27 years. In 2021, through the pandemic, Brown condensed his model of A Christmas Carol for 2 firms of three actors every, with Haysam Kadri and Mike Tan enjoying Scrooge. That makes McKeag the eighth actor to inhabit the function for Calgary audiences.

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It was a Christmas play in Manitoba some 50 years in the past that planted the theatrical seed in McKeag.

“I used to be in Grade 3 and we had been doing The Christmas Tree. I acquired the title function which meant I had a cone on my head and by no means moved, however I beloved the expertise. I undoubtedly had the theatre bug all through college, however I went to college to get a level in political science and economics.

“I used to be going to enter regulation however took a 12 months off. I did neighborhood theatre and was in a musical known as Woman Audley’s Secret. The director inspired me to pursue appearing so I took the one-year course at LAMDA in London. It was actually rigorous, however it was an unforgettable 12 months of coaching and going to theatre at any time when I might.”

McKeag returned to Canada, tried discovering work in Winnipeg, however ultimately moved to Toronto the place he “did lots of non-equity dinner theatre. He got here to Alberta to take a course in arts administration at MacEwan Faculty in Edmonton, then labored for the Calgary Philharmonic through the Olympics and moonlighted in theatre.

“My first present in Calgary was the Moss Hart comedy Gentle Up the Sky on the Pleiades.”

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With a background in music, McKeag quickly discovered himself in musicals like Taking part in Our Track, Grease and A Humorous Factor Occurred on the Strategy to the Discussion board at Stage West, and Little Store of Horrors, Evita, Cabaret and Into the Woods at Theatre Calgary. His final look at Theatre Calgary was in April enjoying the one-eyed seashore bum within the Jimmy Buffett musical Escape to Margaritaville.

A Christmas Carol
Laura Desmaris performs Tiny Tim poses in Theatre Calgary’s manufacturing of A Christmas Carol. Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia

Becoming a member of McKeag in A Christmas Carol, which runs within the Arts Commons Max Bell Theatre till Dec. 31, are Mike Tan as Bob Cratchit, Anna Cummer as Alice Cratchit, Mark Bellamy as Mr. Fezziwig, Karen Johnson-Diamond as Gertie Fezziwig, Daniel Fong as Cousin Fred, and Joe Perry because the younger Scrooge. The Cratchit kids are performed by Scarlett Bowler, Simon Goutsis, Alexandria Lee, Raina Muradali, and Parker Painchaud, with Laura Desmaris as Tiny Tim Cratchit. Jamie Tognazzini performs The Ghost of Christmas Previous with Marshall Vielle as Christmas Current.

It takes 17 further folks backstage to assist run the present every night, plus Greg Pember and Jessica Eckstadt as understudies, to step in ought to an actor take ailing. Declan O’Reilly is the alternate in case something occurs to McKeag.

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Deitra Kalyn has designed greater than 1,000 costume items for the 20-member solid, together with 66 pairs of footwear and 30 wigs. There are 300 items of fruit on the costume worn by Christmas Current.

The set designed by Scott Reid options 4 homes every weighing 1,360 kilograms. They’re suspended in order that they are often moved rapidly on and off stage. It takes over 80 hours, and over 2,000 labour hours, to put in Reid’s set which, throughout the remainder of the 12 months, is saved in 4 trailers.

There are 120 audio system getting used within the Max Bell for A Christmas Carol. Allison Lynch, who seems on stage because the fiddler, designed and composed all of the music for the present. Kevin Lamotte designed the lighting, and Jesse Robb supplied the choreography.

In 2019, Theatre Calgary put in an enormous LED wall that serves because the backdrop for all of the totally different scenes within the play. This wall measures 12 metres huge and seven.6 metres tall, accommodates 416 panels, and weighs greater than 3,175 kg. A Christmas Carol is among the many most lavish productions Theatre Calgary has created.

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