SUNDAY STORY:Split Personality

Hal Landon Jr. hasn't let 26 Christmases past as Charles Dickens' holiday humbug sour his kind spirit.

December 22, 2006|By Jessie Brunner

In Charles Dickens' words, Ebenezer Scrooge is a "squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner," but the longtime star of South Coast Repertory's "A Christmas Carol" is anything but that in real life. This year's "Tiny" Tim Cratchit, Omead Moini, often compares working with Landon to spending time with family.

"When he is on stage as Scrooge, you think 'That's Scrooge,' " the 7-year-old said. "But in real life, he is really, really nice."

So nice, in fact, that when Landon's two daughters were young children, he did not permit them to come to the show. He didn't want them to see him as a mean person.


Though he successfully hides it while portraying Scrooge, Landon's kind nature is strikingly evident in real life. His soul, as described by Omead, is "bright and happy."

As a founding artist of the repertory, Hal Landon Jr. created the role of Scrooge there in 1980, and has performed it every year since. Landon credits genetics for initially landing him the role.

"I was the skinniest and the baldest of the available actors at the time," he said. "I think that had more to do with it than anything."

Though at times he has been offered attractive parts to star elsewhere during the holidays, Landon continues to play Scrooge year after year without hesitation.

"It's pretty hard to beat playing Ebenezer Scrooge," he said. "People tell me Christmas doesn't start for them until they see me as Scrooge."

By emphasizing different aspects of Scrooge's personality, Landon is able to keep the role fresh each time around. This year, he focuses on how fears of abandonment and loneliness affected his character's development, leading Scrooge to seek power through the accumulation of material wealth.

The play's director, John-David Keller, spoke fondly of Landon's ability to make it look like a new performance every year.

"The thing I love about Hal more than anything else is he never stops working at it," Keller said. "He invests himself in the show every time he does it."

Landon's favorite part about "A Christmas Carol" is the show's ability to engage the audience and keep theatergoers coming back each season — what he refers to as "the whole spirit of Christmas thing." He also thinks it's the feeling of redemption, as experienced by his character, that keeps audiences past, present and future so engaged.

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