40 years of Christmas

“A Christmas Carol” continues to bring heartwarming season’s tidings to the Guthrie stage for 40 years.

J.C. Cutler acts as Ebenezer Scrooge in the Guthrie Theater's production of the Charles Dickens classic

J.C. Cutler acts as Ebenezer Scrooge in the Guthrie Theater's production of the Charles Dickens classic "A Christmas Carol."

Laini Devin

The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future will once again unite starting Thursday to bring “A Christmas Carol” to the Guthrie Theater’s Wurtele Thrust Stage.

Joe Chvala returns for a third year as director, with an adaptation of the story written by Crispin Whittell.

“We’ve changed the tone a bit to make it darker, which I love,” 24-time cast member Nathaniel Fuller said.

The original author of “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens, had an ironic tone and a dry wit that are both funny, Fuller said, but the play deals with darker considerations such as poverty, destitution, crime and malnourishment.

“Sometimes that can get a little lost when we get too many bits going,” Fuller said.

This year, Fuller is playing Old Joe/Parsons, but he has played just about every male role in the show in past years, he said. His favorite role was Scrooge.

J.C. Cutler will return to play Ebenezer Scrooge for the fourth time in a slightly changed interpretation of the role.

“What gives [Scrooge] the power is the way he looks, the things he exudes. It’s the people around him that give him that air of darkness,” Fuller said. “He has immense power because of the way people react to him.”

The sinister demeanor Scrooge manifests doesn’t stand in the way of satisfied audiences every year. The production is now celebrating 40 years on the Guthrie stage.

“People in Minnesota like traditions — this is definitely a tradition,” Chvala said.

Despite its title, “A Christmas Carol” is about the spirit of generosity rather than religion, Fuller said.

“The story it tells, I think, appeals to people regardless of their religious persuasion. It’s called ‘A Christmas Carol,’ but Christ is only mentioned a few times,” he said.

The true spirit of the show is carried through touching stories such as the one Fuller shared.

“A man wrote in and said that he had been estranged from his father for many years,” Fuller said. “He came to see ‘A Christmas Carol’ and decided to go out and re-establish contact and start up their relationship again.”

That feeling of giving back to the community keeps the cast coming back year after year to perform, Fuller said.

The cast does matinee performances at schools and takes part in a program sponsored by the Salvation Army in which they adopt a family and “give them a Christmas,” Fuller said.

“[But] there’s nothing like having a paycheck at Christmas time,” he said, laughing.

In addition, the cast becomes the family they portray on stage and backstage, celebrating the ideals they embody in the show.

“It’s become something that I’d really miss if it weren’t there. I feel really connected to the cast — people coming back every year,” Chvala said.

 

What: A Christmas Carol

Where: Guthrie Theater

When: Nov. 13- Dec. 28

Cost: Single tickets starting at $34; discount and rush tickets available