A version of this story appears in the Sunday Life section of The Oklahoman.
New Scrooge joins Lyric’s ‘A Christmas Carol’
Nationally known actor Chris Bloch, who is based in Washington, D.C., has played many roles in the Charles Dickens holiday classic over the years, but his Lyric debut also marks his first time to fully take the lead.
From Jacob Marley to Mr. Fezziwig, Chris Bloch has played practically every role in “A Christmas Carol” over the years.
“I’ve done it a bunch, at any number of theaters all over the country and lots of different versions and have played almost all the roles, including some of the kids and women in story theaters, you know, where you’re just kind of dressing up in any number of costumes … and everybody’s stepping in and out of roles,” Bloch said.
“Boy, every once in a while I have to step back from it, but I do love the story. And I love coming back to it each and every time.”
For the first time, Bloch, 58, is fully taking the lead role of Ebenezer Scrooge, the tight-fisted curmudgeon who is visited by three spirits and transformed into a joyful keeper of Christmas, in Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma’s production of the Charles Dickens classic.
“It’s fun to finally explore Scrooge. I guess that means I’ve arrived at a certain age of where I’m right for Scrooge,” he said with a laugh.
The nationally known actor has frequently played Bob Cratchit in “A Christmas Carol” at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., where he is based. Two years ago, Bloch also got to play the bah, humbugging lead for a short run, but his first role with Lyric is his first opportunity to
delve into the part of Scrooge from the beginning of rehearsals. It also reunites him with Lyric’s artistic director Michael Baron, who previously directed Bloch in Ford’s production of the yuletide favorite.
“We are ecstatic to have Chris join the cast,” said Baron, who is in his fourth year as Lyric’s artistic director and is directing Lyric’s “A Christmas Carol,” in an email.
“This being the third year of the production, it is the perfect time to bring a fresh perspective into the character of Scrooge. Chris is a superb actor and we are excited for Oklahoma audiences to see him on stage for the first time.”
Bloch, also known for his roles in “Les Miserables,” “1776” and TV’s “The West Wing,” started doing the holiday classic in about 1997 back in his hometown of Minneapolis. He played Jacob Marley at the Guthrie Theater there and later went on tour and worked at several regional theaters, playing any number of parts in the seasonal story.
“I’m a little bit of a purist when it comes to the Dickens ‘Christmas Carol’ because I think it’s such a great story to begin with,” Bloch said.
“As an actor it’s just wonderful words. … Michael Baron has been very faithful to the book with this, and there are some productions, including the one I did at Ford’s, that are not. They take a little bit more liberties and try to add some different things. But the dialogue that comes from the original, Charles Dickens wrote some beautiful stuff, and it’s like chocolate on the tongue.”
Joining a tradition
Although Bloch is not be the only new addition this year — Jennifer Teel will take on the role of The Ghost of Christmas Past – many of the actors are reprising their roles in Lyric’s new holiday tradition. Tom Huston Orr returns as Bob Cratchit, Matthew Alvin Brown as Fred/Young Scrooge, Mandy Jiran as The Ghost of Christmas Present, Tommy Cunningham as Jacob Marley/Mr. Fezziwig, Susan Riley as Mrs. Cratchit, and Mat Govich as the Solicitor/Undertaker, Lexi Windsor as Mrs. Fred, Melissa Griffith as Belle. Brenda Williams as Mrs. Dilber and Charlie Monnot as Topper.
“It’s a big shift for the cast for the role of Scrooge to change, and I think it’s kind of fun because there’s a lot of new impulses coming at them. It changes the feel of it a little bit for them,” Bloch said. “It’s a wonderful group of people. And I’ve found that to be quite true with a lot of companies of ‘Christmas Carol,’ especially when it’s done locally and it’s become a little bit of a tradition. A lot of the same people come back and do the roles that they have done, or sometimes there’s a shifting of the roles … but there is such a wonderful sense of family with this cast,” Bloch said.
Much like playing a villain is fun, Bloch has enjoyed taking on Dickens’ sharp-tongued grouch.
“It’s always fun to explore personas that are so unlike you or even that are like you but that have such an impact, especially when you have that range of going from the curmudgeon to someone who has absolutely rediscovered in a moment the joy of living,” he said.
“It’s just a beautiful story. I think what appeals to so many people is this story of redemption: when you’ve messed up your life, you’ve erred and you’ve caused somebody harm – or even yourself harm — and you have that second chance to make things right. It’s a very powerful message to people, especially at the holidays.”
Lyric Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol”
When: 28 performances from Friday through Dec. 28.
Where: at Lyric at the Plaza, 1725 NW 16.
Information: 524-9312 or www.lyrictheatreokc.com.