The Big Heart Behind the Tight Fist

Hal Landon Jr’s somersaulting Scrooge is back at SCR

The December that South Coast Repertory‘s A Christmas Carol debuted, Jimmy Carter was wrapping up his final White House Christmas. It was 1980 and to cap Scrooge’s Christmas morning rebirth – and immortalize his own portrait of him – Hal Landon Jr. somersaulted into the miser’s top hat.

Landon recently contemplated whether he, the production, or the audience had changed the most in 37 years. The show, he says, has remained essentially the same since it shifted away “from thinking it was a comedy romp.” The audience now includes “lots of people who’ve seen the show multiple times and know what’s coming next.” It isn’t Rocky Horror, he laughs. “They don’t do the lines along with me or anything like that.”

Regarding the actor, “I’d like to think that I’m doing it better than I was when we started,” he says. “I’m the right age now.” He continues to probe his year-end alter ego, reading a different Dickens novel each fall in preparation.

“…it hit me more than ever how big a part money and the need for it plays in almost every one of the novels.”

“This year it was Our Mutual Friend,” Landon says, “and it hit me more than ever how big a part money and the need for it plays in almost every one of the novels. It made me look into Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in connection to greed and one article distinguished OCD, where someone recognizes the behavior but can’t do anything about it, from Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, where they don’t think there’s anything wrong. That’s Scrooge.”

That and Landon’s tumble have made Scrooge’s thrilling transformation a holiday must-see for generations. It’s also led to one change. Despite being supremely fit, Landon does get “misaligned.”

“What with falling down, being forced into the grave by Christmas Future to crawl under the stage and into the bed, and the somersault, I go to the chiropractor at least once a week when I’m doing the show.”

A Christmas Carol
now through December 24
South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
714-708-5555 • www.scr.org

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Cristofer Gross
Cristofer Gross

Cristofer Gross began reviewing theater in 2006. He launched Theatertimes.org, for which he is sole writer, in 2005 after leaving Orange County's South Coast Repertory, where he had been Public Relations Director since 1983. Prior to his 22 years in theater, he was an editor of a western regional inflight magazine based in Orange County, and before that co-editor of a biweekly music newspaper in Philadelphia, where he lived briefly after graduating from the University of Southern California's School of Journalism in 1975.

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