During microphone check at the Tuesday night rehearsal of The Rep’s production of “A Christmas Carol — The Musical,” some actors are at a loss for what to say, but not Michael Breeze.
Breeze paces lightly back and forth, reeling off Ebenezer Scrooge dialogue familiar and obscure, while folks on the sound board adjust his sound.
After 25 years with the role, Scrooge is second nature to the Morehead actor.
Breeze first took on the role in 1991, in a production for the Morehead Theatre Guild of a version of “A Christmas Carol” called “Scrooge & Marley.”
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“They asked me what role I’d like to play, and I said, ‘Well, Scrooge,’” Breeze says. “They said, ‘Really?’ and I thought about it and said, ‘Yeah, he goes through every emotion. It’s a strong story.’ So I did it, not realizing I was going to spend the rest of my life with the character.”
That production got him hooked on Charles Dickens’ story, and the next year he was reading the book and noticed that it was published in 1843, meaning the 150th anniversary of “A Christmas Carol” was approaching. So he decided to create an adaptation, which used every word said by every character in the book, and every significant narration in the book.
So, yes, he knows Scrooge by heart.
“It was almost three hours,” Breeze says of the production, which was presented just outside Cleveland, where he lived for the next couple of decades. “From then until 2000, I did it every year — I cut it down and didn’t do quite the full book — and played Scrooge and directed every year.”
In ensuing years, there were productions of his version, or he would do “Christmas Carol” readings. Then, in 2015, he moved back to Morehead and heard about The Rep’s version, the same version by Mike Ockrent and Lynn Ahrens that was used in the 2004 NBC film starring Kelsey Grammer.
It occurred to him that it was the first time he would play Scrooge under someone else’s direction. Steve and Robyn Peterman Zahn direct this show.
“Michael knows the story inside and out,” choreographer Diana Evans Pulliam says. “Michael plays the role with heart and with honesty. His curmudgeonly ways are softened with splashes of humor and a honest emotion that tugs at your heart and makes Scrooge an endearing character.”
“It’s kind of nice to sit back and let someone else run the show,” Breeze says. “The musical pulls out so many more and different emotions, so that part’s really fun.”
This huge production has 112 cast members, five pit musicians and numerous crew members, including costumers and technicians. Breeze easily spots where the musical deviates from Dickens’ tale, including a scene where Scrooge’s father is dragged off to debtors prison and the resolution of his night of ghostly visions. Overall, he says, it acquits itself well.
Breeze has become familiar with all the other characters and says he wouldn’t mind maybe taking a crack at Bob Cratchit or Marley’s Ghost. But one thing stops him: “At this point, I’d have a hard time watching someone else play Scrooge.”
If you go
‘A Christmas Carol — The Musical’
What: The Rep’s production of Michael Ockrent and Lynn Ahrens’ adaptation of the Charles Dickens’ classic.
When: 7 p.m. Fri., 2 and 7 p.m. Sat. and Sun.
Where: The Guignol Theatre, University of Kentucky Fine Arts Building, 465 Rose St.
Tickets: $23 adults, $18 senior adults, $13 students and children.