"We have Scrooge as a fully fleshed, dimensional human being who happens to have a bitter reserve and a refusal to be charitable," Gerroll says about the new production of A Christmas Carol, crafted by Crispin Whittell and directed by Guthrie Artistic Director Joe Dowling.
Breathing life into Scrooge has been a delight for Gerroll, who previously played another crusty misanthrope, Professor Henry Higgins in Pygmalion, at the Guthrie. His stage, film, and TV credits go back decades, from his role in Chariots of Fire to more recent turns on Ugly Betty and The Good Wife.
"A Christmas Carol is a parable, and Dickens dealt in stock characters, the good Samartain or the cripple, who are basically one-note characters," Gerroll says. "What Crispin gives the actor playing Scrooge is depth and an acid sense of humor. Those are things you don't usually get in a parable." The youthful approach also gives Scrooge a bit more hope for events after the play's end.
"One thing that Joe said is that there is no point in reclaiming Scrooge if there is no life left in him. He has to be able to fall in love again," he says. "We made this discovery during rehearsal that this is an intervention. The ghosts are coming to say, 'Get your act together or this is what happens.' Scrooge is in denial, so he makes jokes and does everything to avoid facing who he is. The humor is a defense mechanism."
While some actors find the task of taking Scrooge's journey each performance to be exhausting, Gerroll is thrilled by his nightly transformation. "If you really love doing something, then it is not that difficult. You get a high out of even the most difficult characters. The only difficult time is the minutes before the curtain, because I want to get started."
A Christmas Carol runs through December 30.