ORLANDO — What is it about Charles Dickens’ classic holiday favorite A Christmas Carol that continues to fascinate readers and audiences of the many theatrical versions? If David McElroy knows that answer, he’s not giving away any secrets.
But McElroy, the well-known Central Florida actor and writer, does know the story quite intimately. For more than two decades, he’s been bringing his one-man version of the Dickens tale to local audiences, playing all 37 characters, and he’s doing so again this holiday season.
What is David McElroy’s A Christmas Carol production?
“A Christmas Carol, In Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas” was originally published in London on Dec. 19 1843 as a novella by the author of “Oliver Twist,” “Great Expectations” and “A Tale Of two Cities.” The novella, an instant hit, gave the world those familiar characters like Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, Jacob Marley, and, of course, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet To Come. It recounts the story of elderly miser Ebenezer Scrooge, the ultimate “Bah! Humbug!” cynic during the Christmas holiday, who gets visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley on Christmas Eve with a dire warning.
While Dickens’ story has been adapted to movies, theater productions, musicals, graphic novels and other forms, for the past 22 years, McElroy has brought audiences his own production, where he plays all the characters on a simple set, with audience participation fully welcome.
This year, McElroy is presenting two holiday performances at Penguin Point Studios, 1220 Oveido Mall in Oveido, on Sunday, Dec. 22 at 2:30 p.m. and Monday, Dec. 23 at 7:30 p.m. This is a family-friendly show, and a family production as well: McElroy’s wife Marylin Fermanich McGinnis is once again directing this production, and McElroy noted there will be more than 50 sound cues in the show.
Freeline Media reached out to David to learn more about this holiday season’s production.
What’s New With David McElroy’s A Christmas Carol show?
Freeline Media: How did you first start doing a one-man A Christmas Carol two decades ago?
David McElroy:At the time, Patrick Stewart was reading A Christmas Carol on the Broadway stage. I did not get to see it, but listened to a recording and found out that he sat in a chair and as he read, portrayed the characters. My wife Marilyn McGinnis, who has directed it for the last 20 years, and I decided that it would make a wonderful one man play. We decided to do it with me playing all the roles and moving around the stage and into the audience, with a setting for Scrooge’s world. The audience becomes part of the play.
FM: Has the production changed or evolved over those years, even as it remained a one-man show?
DM: It has remained a one-man show. When we did it the first time at the old KVG Studios in Orlando, it was with a full set — a bed, fireplace, masks and recorded voices for the ghosts. After that we started getting booked at churches and dinner theaters, and now it has just a chair, two stools, a bench and a clothes tree. It’s very portable this way. We also, without changing the story in any way, try to add little bits here and there.
FM: What have you found to be the greatest challenge about handling all the characters?
DM: The energy required to do all 37 of the characters! The show is just over an hour long, and I bring to life all of the characters and I love doing them. Fifteen or so years back, I would do back-to-back performances at Chapter in Winter Park.
FM: What do you think is the enduring appeal of Dickens’ tale?
DM: It speaks to young and old, that we must all help one another, that being cruel does not have a place in our lives, that love exists for everyone, and it takes some people — Scrooge — a lifetime to learn it.
FM: What’s up next for David McElroy in 2020?
DM: I have five one-man plays that I currently perform. I will be doing a play that Steve A. Rowell and myself wrote and I star in called End Of The Road: An Evening With Jack Kerouac. I will be performing it at The Hub On Canal in New Smyrna in February and hope to book it at other places in Central Florida.
How Can You Get Tickets For This Show?
Tickets for the retelling of “A Christmas Carol” can be purchased online, or by calling 407-310-8908.
Tickets for adults are $20 each and for students or members of the Military, $15.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book When I Woke Up, You Were All Dead. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.