“5Q” is an online-only column featuring five questions about stage productions in the Metro Area with a special focus on the GLBTQ community’s relationship to the production. Periodically, “5Q” will take the form of an interview with actors, directors, writers, etc. to shed some light on the production process.
There are countless renditions of Dickens’ Christmas classic, but nobody does it like the Guthrie. After 42 years, the theater has perfected the tradition of A Christmas Carol. A miserly and miserable man, Ebenezer Scrooge greets each Christmas with a “bah humbug,” until he is visited one Christmas Eve by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. Through a restless night, the spirits show him happy memories from his past, cruel realities from the present, and the grim future should he continue his cantankerous ways.
This year, Regina Marie Williams joins the cast as Mrs. Fezziwig. The winner of an Ivey Award, named City Pages’ Best Actress of 2016, and many other accolades, Williams is no stranger to the Twin Cities theater scene. Mrs. Fezziwig, as the wife of Scrooge’s first boss, serves as a reminder of the joy and effervescent attitude with which he used to approach the Christmas season.
This is the 42nd year the Guthrie has put on A Christmas Carol. What can returning audience members look forward to with this production? What about new audiences?
Regina Marie Williams: We all know the story and yet audiences return year after year. I think it’s because A Christmas Carol has a hopeful message and reminds us of some lessons that can carry over throughout the entire year, not just the holidays. The cast is also more diverse than in years past. It’s a beautiful sight.
What do you hope the audience gains from seeing this production? Does this differ from what you hope the children in the audience understand?
RMW: We come to theater to be entertained, to be moved, changed, and confirmed. A Christmas Carol achieves that. There are ghosts coming from this way and that, smoke, loud sounds, lovely sweet carols, darkness as well as light; It’s fantastic! There are many mini messages throughout the show that kids can understand. I really love the moment when Cratchit and Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, toasts Scrooge. Instead of blasting him, they bless him. It’s more than a gracious way to be; those are the messages I appreciate. And, fortunately for Scrooge, he gets the message before it’s too late. Redemption. He experiences the joy of giving; of sharing. At the end of the show children and adults alike are aglow, standing, applauding, and smiling from ear to ear. It feels like joy.
Many interpretations of Mr. Fezziwig come across as somewhat effeminate. Can audiences expect a similar portrayal this year?
RMW: Actor Jay Albright, who has played Mr. Fezziwig for the past several years, is reprising the role. His Fezzi is splendid, charming, and genuine. Smashingly dressed, he floats about effervescent, joyful, full of life, and out dances everyone!
How does Mrs. Fezziwig fit into the broader scheme of the story? What does she represent?
RMW: The Fezziwig’s are partners in all things. They are a jovial pair with a zest for life and a well of love and generosity deeper than Scrooge’s pockets. They are the complete opposite of what/who Scrooge is. They take any opportunity to throw a party and celebrate life. And their joy is genuine. Their love, admiration, and affection for one another is what you see at the end of the big Fezziwig party. They gaze into the other’s eyes. He kisses her warmly on the mouth. It is a moment to experience a richness beyond wealth. Something all mankind understands: love.
Many people make A Christmas Carol part of their holiday tradition. What are your favorite traditions?
RMW: My first Christmas in Minnesota, my best friend gave me ice skates. We spent every Christmas morning no matter how cold, ice skating. That changed when I had children. When my children were small I would wait until they went to sleep Christmas Eve to put out their gifts. I decorated with nutcrackers and crèches. They each have their own ornaments. So many things have changed in our traditions since they’ve gotten older. But I will forever hang their stockings by the fireplace and fill them with goodness. For me, Christmas will always be a time for family and the people I love.
A Christmas Carol runs at the Guthrie Theater through December 30. For more information and to purchase tickets, head to www.guthrietheater.org.