What’s Your Favorite Line From ‘A Christmas Carol'?

in Ivoryton Playhouse, Stage

Four Connecticut Scrooges tell us theirs, and ‘Bah! Humbug!’ isn’t among them

What’s Your Favorite Line From ‘A Christmas Carol'?-1

Christopher Arnott


It’s Christmastime, and somebody has a lot to say about it. His name is Ebenezer Scrooge, and he’s ubiquitous.

Scrooge is hardly a man of few words, but he’s often been reduced to just two: “Bah!” and “Humbug.”

Let’s hear him out.

In Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge opines on the worthlessness of charities, the plight of the poverty-stricken, and whether a visit from a ghost can be explained as a stomach ailment. Later in the story, when Scrooge has (spoiler alert!) undergone a major emotional transformation, he poetically declares “I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future! The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me."

Connecticut has no shortage of Scrooges in residence. They are all quite different. Some are Victorian. Some are modern. Some are American. Some are “meta,” like an actor playing an actor playing Scrooge. Some hew close to Dickens’ dialogue. Others make it up as they go along.

We gingerly approached four significant Connecticut Scrooges and asked them to tell us their favorite line in “A Christmas Carol." No “Bah! Humbugs!” were allowed.

The Spooky Scrooge

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Michael Preston in “A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas." Nov. 29 through Dec. 28 at Hartford Stage, 50 Church St., Hartford. 860-527-5151,

Michael Preston is entering his third season as Scrooge in Michael Wilson’s spooky adaptation, which features high-tech flying and burning hellpit special effects, plus adorable children. The production has been around for more than 20 years. For most of that time, Scrooge was played by the eminent experimental-theater actor Bill Raymond, so to many Preston is still “the new guy.” Before taking over the lead role, Preston performed in it as the scorned-by-Scrooge street vendor Mr. Marvel.

Preston brings special skills to the role, including some he used as a member of the Flying Karamazov Brothers comedy troupe. He juggles. He balances a turkey on his chin. He plays the fool.

Which leads to Preston’s favorite Scrooge line:

“Can you forgive me for being a stubborn old fool, with no eyes to see with and no ears to hear with, all these years?”

The Connecticut Scrooge

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Robert Cuccioli in “A Connecticut Christmas Carol” at Goodspeed Musicals’ Norma Terris Theatre, 33 North Main St., Chester, Dec. 4 to 28. 860-873-8668,

Robert Cuccioli’s Broadway roles include such villainous turns as Mr. Hyde (in the 1990s Frank Wildhorn musical “Jekyll & Hyde”) and the Green Goblin in “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” He is returning for his second season as Scrooge in “A Connecticut Christmas Carol."

Cuccioli is actually playing William Gillette, the famed early 20th century actor whose castle home is just down the road from the Goodspeed Opera House, where “A Connecticut Christmas Carol” takes place. The conceit of the show is that Gillette is hosting an event to honor the Opera House shortly before it’s shuttered in 1930.

“A Connecticut Christmas Carol” is a community-minded show in ways that extend beyond its just being set in Connecticut. It celebrates the Goodspeed’s own artistic community, and the Goodspeed’s mission to honor American musical theater in all its forms.

Cuccioli notes that although he doesn’t generally attach himself to favorite lines, songs or moments in any of the shows he does, one surly Scrooge line does leap out at him:

“If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with Merry Christmas on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.”

The improv Scrooge

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Kevin MacDermott in “An Improvised Christmas Carol” at Sea Tea Comedy Theater, 15 Asylum St., Hartford, Dec. 12 to 15 and 19 to 22.

Kevin MacDermott, right, plays Scrooge, as part of the Sea Tea improv cast of "An Improvised Christmas Carol." (Courtesy of Sea Tea Improv)
If Kevin MacDermott doesn’t have a single favorite line as Scrooge, it’s because the exact lines he speaks can change nightly. “An Improvised Christmas Carol," now entering its fourth season at Sea Tea Comedy Theater, does have a script and a structure. But it is also informed by more than 20 suggestions from the audience, which can change the style, location and other aspects of “A Christmas Carol.”

“Each night,” for instance, MacDermott says, “we ask the audience to provide a ‘place of business’ for Scrooge and Crachit. We then improvise the entire opening act in that business environment. I play Scrooge as the same horrible, tight-fisted, wretched, covetous old sinner found in the book, but when he’s running a hair salon or a health food store, the story takes on a new and exciting life.

“My favorite moment each night occurs with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and Scrooge’s desperate plea for another chance to redeem himself. This is the theme that resonates so profoundly with performers and audiences; we constantly have opportunities to remake ourselves. Our show is improvised, so the lines change every night, but I always aim to maximize the impact of this moment.”

The Burnt-Out Scrooge

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Michael Iannucci in “An Actor’s Carol” Dec. 13 to 22 at the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St., Ivoryton. 860-767-7318,

Like Robert Cuccioli at Goodspeed, Michael Iannucci is playing an actor who’s playing Scrooge. That’s where similarities between “An Actor’s Carol” and other local “Christmas Carol”s end.

The play, by Charles Evered, was inspired by the plight of actors who get typecast as Scrooge, play the role year after year and experience burnout. In “An Actor’s Carol,” an actor named Hugh Pendleton has a sort of breakdown, quarrels with loved ones, and has a Scrooge-like nightmare.

“This is my second outing as Scrooge,” Iannucci says. “Last year when I played it, in a more traditional adaptation, one of the lines that hit me in the heart every night was “I got lost but somehow I found my way.”

"In the version we are doing at Ivoryton, Scrooge is a bitter, jaded actor who has played Scrooge over a thousand times and never really took it to heart.

“In one of his more jaded moments he tells someone who aspires to be an actor, ‘Put that flame out before the world does.’ After his epiphany he realizes what a wonderful profession it is and says, ‘What a gift it is to work in this profession. I understand that more than ever now.'”

The Original Scrooge

Ebenezer Scrooge, as himself, in “A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, published in 1843.

And finally, we take the liberty of presenting one of our favorite lines delivered by Dickens’ most famous and beloved curmudgeon:

“I don’t know what to do! I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world. Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!”

Christopher Arnott can be reached at [email protected]