Five years of looking at Christmas through the eyes of Ebenezer Scrooge has given Mike Katchmer a special insight into Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas tale.
“It’s a story about change,” Katchmer says. “It’s about how we can all look at our past, present and future and change, and there’s hope and redemption in that change.”
Katchmer will reprise his role as Scrooge when Theatre Baton Rouge opens its annual production of “A Christmas Carol” on Friday. He originally was supposed to play the ornery businessman for two years when the theater established the play as its holiday production in 2011, but he was still leading the cast four years later.
“This year, we made everyone re-audition,” says Kurt Hauschild, who is co-directing with Jack Lampert. “In the past, we gave everyone who wanted the option to return to their previous roles.”
Katchmer won the role again.
“But the show is completely different, because the cast is different,” Katchmer says. “As Scrooge, I react differently to characters played by different actors. That’s a part of live theater — it’s always different.”
For instance, Scrooge will be confronted by Marley, who will be played for the first time by Mike Sager, a third-year veteran in this show.
“I’ve played different characters in the past, but now I’m Scrooge’s dead business partner Marley, who doesn’t want Scrooge to suffer his fate in death,” Sager says.
And, while the actors change, the story never does.
Romulus Linney’s adaptation of Dickens’ best-selling 1843 novel tells of a bitter old miser visited by three ghosts, who show him the error of his ways and ultimately leads to a chance at transformation and redemption.
And along the way, he sees life through the impoverished eyes of the Cratchit family and experiences the unconditional love of his nephew Fred, played by Travis Williams in this production.
“I like Fred,” says Williams. “I like his demeanor.”
Williams is surrounded by Fred’s party guests, Paige Skidmore, who plays his wife, Julia; Sarah Hille, who plays Lucy; and Mathew Laborde, who plays Lucy’s suitor, Mr. Topper.
Laborde is the only rookie in the group.
“This is my first time in a play,” he says. “I’m just glad to be a part of it. My goal is to win a part in a musical in the next nine months. I’m taking singing lessons now to get ready.”
“A Christmas Carol” is good training ground for Laborde. While the play isn’t a musical, it does have some dancing and singing.
“And it’s a great story,” Hauschild adds. “This is my second year directing. I was in the production before that, and it’s become a tradition for me and my family. This is Christmas for us — it wouldn’t be the same without it.”