Humbug! Here we come a-`Carol’-ing

James Carpenter plays Ebenezer Scrooge “dead seriously.”

“It’s just like when you play farce,” Carpenter explains. “You don’t play it funny. You have to invest as fully as you can.”

Carpenter, 56, one of the Bay Area’s most revered actors, is now in his third year as Scrooge in American Conservatory Theater’s re-tooled production of A Christmas Carol, and he’s as passionate as ever about the role and the production.

“I’m always trying to find something new and different,” he says. “It’s the only way a piece of theater can stay a live. Without discovering something new, it will die – and deservedly so.”

No chance of Carpenter’s Scrooge (seen at right, photo by Ryan Montgomery) withering and fading. Working alongside ACT’s MFA students and the novice actors in the Young Conservatory, Carpenter is alive to the challenge of bringing Dickens’ anti-hero to the fullest life possible and making his redemption after a night of ghostly visitation a moving experience for all.

“I’m not a religious man,” Carpenter says, “but I’m a spiritual man. If we are to evolve as a species, spiritual evolution is the direction.”

Scrooge exemplifies that evolution, which may be one reason the Dickens tale remains so popular 165 years after it was written.

Here’s a quick guide to some of the Bay Area’s productions of A Christmas Carol.

  • American Conservatory Theater’s A Christmas Carol (starring James Carpenter as Scrooge) opens today (Thursday, Dec. 4) and continues through Dec. 27 at 415 Geary St., San Francisco. Tickets are $14-$102. Call 415-749-2228 or visit
  • Center Repertory Company’s A Christmas Carol returns for an 11th year with Jack Powell as Scrooge and runs Dec. 11-21 at the Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek. Tickets are $41. Call 925-943-7469 or visit
  • Moonlight Entertainment’s A Christmas Carol returns for a 23rd year and continues through Sunday, Dec. 7 at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, 1428 Alice St., Oakland. Tickets are $12-$15. Call 877-666-5448 or visit
  • Notre Dame de Namur University’s long-running musical version of A Christmas Carol, also called “The Gift” because it’s free (except for opening night) to the public, runs Dec. 5 through 13 on the NDNU campus in Belmont. Opening-night tickets are $20-$40. Call 650-508-3456 or e-mail
  • Ron Severdia plays all the parts in his one-man A Christmas Carol under the direction of Julian Lopez-Morillas. Ross Valley Players, along with Severdia’s Humbug Theatre, presents this award-winning solo performance Dec. 11 through 24 at The Ross Valley Players’ Barn Theatre, 30 Sir Francis Drake, Ross. Tickets are $15-$25. Call 415-456-9555 or visit
  • Northside Theatre Company’s A Christmas Carol, adapted and directed by Richard T. Orlando runs Dec. 10 through 24 at 848 E. William St., San Jose. Tickets are $15-$20. Call 408-288-7820 or visit
  • 4 thoughts on “Humbug! Here we come a-`Carol’-ing

    1. Pingback: Christmas Party Online » Blog Archive » Chad Jones’ Theater Dogs » Humbug! Here we come a-`Carol’-ing

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    3. Pingback: Chad Jones’ Theater Dogs » Humbug! Here we come a-`Carol’-ing

    4. I liked your piece on James Carpenter in the Examiner. I saw his performance in 2006 and 2007 at ACT and I thought he was one of the best Scrooge’s I had ever seen. My top favorite is Alastair Sim in the 1951 British’ film “Scrooge”. I watch it every year to get into the Christmas spirit. My favorite Christmas musical is the Leslie Bruisse’s 1970 film musical “Scrooge” starring Albert Finney. Eddy of course has to see “White Christmas” with Bing every Christmas Day.

      Several years ago a theatre company in Las Vegas transferred the musical “Scrooge” to the stage up in the Sun City Casino starring Boyd Gaines. It was a disaster. I could not believe what they did to this charming musical. Poor Boyd tried to get out of his contract but he just had to do it every night.

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