By Tara Bennett
This year marks the fourth consecutive production of “A Christmas Carol” by the Theatre of Baton Rouge (TBR), bringing back the joy of the Christmas season with a traditional and timeless holiday story.
This year also marks the fourth year that Mike Katchmer has been an integral part of the production. An actor based in Baton Rouge, Katchmer has played the lead role of Scrooge for TBR in 2011, 2012 and 2013. He returns this year to say “Bah Humbug!” once again on the TBR main stage in a performance run beginning on Dec. 12 and ending on Dec. 21.
Directed by Kurt Hauschild, “A Christmas Carol” is based off of the book written by Charles Dickens that was published in 1843. It has been produced into various films and theatre productions and has become one of the most popular holiday season stories told each year.
According to Katchmer, the essence of the play is celebrating the true spirit of Christmas, and Hauschild, who also plays the Ghost of Christmas Present, said their telling of the play is a lot lighter.
“There’s an inherent brightness to the story, to the idea that Scrooge ends in a correct place, and he became a greater friend and father than the city or Tiny Tim ever knew,” said Hauschild. “So I kind of wanted to change the tone of the show into something a little brighter, a little more into the spirit of Christmas.”
In the past productions, TBR worked off of the idea that “A Christmas Carol” was a ghost story, but this year they made it more accessible under Hauschild’s vision.
“Yes, it’s about the ghosts, but it’s also about keeping the spirit of Christmas in the heart and sharing that joy of the holiday,” said co-director Jack Lampert.
The very name of Scrooge may bring many clichés to mind, but Katchmer brings forth a fully realized character.
“It’s very easy to be isolated from others for me, and in that sense I can understand him and understand him isolating himself and protecting himself,” said Katchmer. “That’s the part that I can see and maybe that’s why I like it so much when he finally trusts enough that he can come out.”
When first playing a new role, it’s all about memorization, but after playing the same character for four years, there are ways to keep it fresh and updated.
“The first time playing a character, you think you know the character, but a lot of things get in the way because you’re trying to remember the lines and the blocking and getting used to the theatre action,” said Katchmer. “After playing the character for a while, you start to get a little more comfortable in the thoughts and also the relationships with the other characters. You can start getting deeper and deeper into the character and into relationships and you can explore things with a little more confidence.”
According to his director, Katchmer has real understanding of what has led Scrooge to become Scrooge, which leads to a greater satisfying change of character later in the show.
“When he does finally turn around, it feels like that Scrooge was always possible versus just a really angry Scrooge that miraculously changes. I think Mike does a wonderful job of helping us believe that that Scrooge was always there.”
“Since day one [Katchmer’s] been off book,” said Lampert. “He has been a leader to the cast, because he never falters with his performance. Nearly every rehearsal he is at a performance-ready level. He’s never not in character. He’s a professional in every way.”
Among some of the changes in the show will be the Christmas carols, which were changed to brighter, happier carols. There is something else new to experience this year as ZFX Flying Effects will be flying Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past this year.
“That’s an added fun piece this year,” said Hauschild. “I think that’s going to be a great addition to the show.”
This will also be the first year the Ghost of Christmas Past will be played by a younger actor, Caroline Feduccia.
“She’s been wonderful, the change of character on that has been a wonderful experience” said Hauschild. “She’s a great actress.”
Other main roles include Davis Hotard as Bob Cratchit, Addie Prochaska as Tiny Tim, Susannah Craig as Mrs. Cratchit, Melissa Seidule as Belle, Travis H. Williams as Fred and Jess Bryan as Christmas Yet to Come.
“What I have come to feel in this production since we’ve done it, is that we have become a family in the production,” said Katchmer. “And we’re basically throwing our holiday party and having the audience in to share this with us, this holiday experience.”
Tickets are $25 individually, $22 for a group of 10 or more and $20 for Students. Student ID’s are required when you come to the theater. There is a $1 handling fee per ticket. This production is rated G. Tickets are on sale now in the Box Office.
Pay What You Can Night is Thursday, Dec. 11, at 7:30 p.m. All donations are accepted but there is a $5 suggested minimum.