After 36 years of playing various characters in the classic Dickens holiday favorite, South Coast Repertory founding member and veteran actor Richard Doyle steps into the lead role of Ebenezer Scrooge in this year’s production of A Christmas Carol in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Fellow thespian and Doyle’s long-time friend, Hal Landon, Jr., played the role of the miserly Scrooge for 40 years at South Coast Repertory until he uttered his last “bah humbug” and hung up his scarf in 2019.
This is the theater’s 41st production of the beloved play, which had to be cancelled in 2020 due to pandemic restrictions.
Over the years, Doyle has played many of A Christmas Carol’s beloved characters, including the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present, the jovial Mr. Fezziwig, Scrooge’s nephew Fred, as well as Jeeves and Howell, the well-meaning charity solicitors.
Joining him on center stage for this year’s production is his real-life wife, Jennifer Parsons, who replaces Doyle in the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past, a part he played for 30 years. Parsons, also a long-time member of the cast, performed the role of Mrs. Cratchit in the play since 2004.
A Long Time Coming
Doyle said that playing Ebenezer Scrooge was foretold early in his life, after he watched his brother Bobby play Scrooge in a school production of the play.
“The first time I saw a play live was when we were living in Italy,” he told The Epoch Times. “I didn’t know the story at all, didn’t know Charles Dickens at all. But when I saw this play, I remember saying to my mom, ‘I want to do that. I want to do a play like Bobby.’ She said, ‘You’ll get your chance.’”
After that, acting became a lifelong calling for Doyle, who would go on to become an accomplished voice actor and star of the stage and screen.
Born in 1945, Doyle grew up at a time when radio entertainment dominated the average American household.
His father was a Naval officer, and in 1951 the family moved to Naples, Italy where Doyle’s world became a menagerie of characters and languages. Since they didn’t have a television at that time, Doyle would spend hours at Saturday matinees watching Italian movies with English subtitles and listening to English-speaking records and radio programs in all sorts of languages.
As a boy living in Europe post-World War II, Doyle didn’t realize that he was learning how to effortlessly take on personas, develop characters, and perfect accents.
“We were living in a country that had been occupied and was now freed by American soldiers from German occupation,” Doyle recalled. “We were welcomed in Italy, and all the other people living there at the time were trying to speak English because they wanted to be friendly with the Americans.
“There were Germans, Australians, Greeks, people from all the Eastern European countries that were there as allies of the United States. They were all speaking English with some sort of an accent. So as a kid, I heard all these accents, and it just stuck with me,” Doyle said.
As he began to delve into his acting career, he realized that living in Italy amongst the varying and diverse cultures as a boy, and listening to audio recordings for most of his young life, had a major influence on his acting ability. He had unwittingly developed the skills and subtleties of his craft early on.
“I was born into an audio world, a world of radio,” Doyle said. “I stayed in that world as a young boy, listening to recorded performances, long-playing records, mostly recorded by actors from Great Britain who were part of the National Theater until I was at least 13 years old. That was my entrée to the voice world I still relish today.”
As a founding member of South Coast Repertory, Doyle’s involvement with the theater dates back to 1964 when he was just 19 and one of six original actors who signed on to what would become the renowned Tony Award-winning, nationally recognized, regional theater it is today.
Over the span of 56 years, Doyle has performed in well over 200 productions at South Coast Repertory. His extensive career has also included many commercial, animation and gaming character voices.
Having live-narrated the Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters seven-days-a-week for the past 10 summers, attendees of the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach might well recognize Doyle’s charismatic alto voice.
South Coast Repertory veteran Hisa Takakuwa makes her directorial debut this year with A Christmas Carol, having served as assistant director for nearly 15 years. Prior to that, Takakuwa had appeared in the production for 14 years.
Takakuwa takes her role as director more like that of an artistic caretaker, approaching her work with the understanding that A Christmas Carol is a longstanding Orange County holiday institution, and for many a generational tradition.
“I think it’s an important bridge to the community, opening our doors and welcoming people back to the theatre,” Takakuwa said. “There are so many families in Orange County that make this a part of their holidays. It’s a family tradition. Every year, there are multi-generational families who spend their holidays with us, and to be trusted with the responsibility of making sure they enjoy their experience is a great gift.”
David Ivers is also the artistic director and Paula Tomei is the managing director of the show.
This is the 41st year that South Coast Repertory presents A Christmas Carol, adapted by Jerry Patch, which runs from Nov. 27 through Dec. 26 on the Segerstrom Stage.
For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.scr.org.