“Every year, I go, ‘Wow, it just seems like yesterday I was here doing this,’” Morella says. “And now here it is again, a year later.”
Here’s how each of these three performers takes his distinctive approach to inhabiting the curmudgeonly antihero.
D.C. theater veteran Edward Gero played Scrooge at Ford’s Theatre for seven years before passing his nightcap and gown to Wallace, who is in his fourth season playing the part. As directed by Michael Baron since 2009, the Victorian era staging — with an iron-heavy set, elaborate effects and a sprawling cast — surrounds Scrooge with spectacle.
“My first year that I did it, I was really plugged into a machine that was already built,” says Wallace, 55. “Every season, I breathe more of myself into it. I didn’t get a chance to build it from scratch, but now I’m starting to take that model and make it my own.”
The workload is grueling: Although stage productions typically operate on an eight-shows-a-week schedule, some weeks of “A Christmas Carol” call on this cast to perform 10 times. But the show’s corresponding donation drive — this year in support of children’s charity Bright Beginnings — gives Wallace enough holiday cheer to forge on.
“You have to love Christmas to do this,” Wallace says. “By Sunday night, I’m just exhausted. But to see people so joyous, it’s worth it.”
Although Adams’s character doesn’t go by the name Scrooge in playwright Matthew J. Keenan’s “An Irish Carol,” it’s not hard to see Dickens’s creation in David, the standoffish pub owner who rediscovers his humanity on Christmas Eve. Throughout the night, David crosses paths with characters crafted to evoke Bob Cratchit, the three ghosts and other familiar figures from “A Christmas Carol,” without directly referencing them.
“It’s just a different way of seeing it,” Adams says. “And it’s so different that the audience members really have to work to find the characters in this one. When you talk to the audience afterward and they want to know who the ghosts were, how it happened, it’s kind of fun to explain that.”
Adams, 71, has taken a step back from performing onstage in recent years. As he approaches a decade of playing David, however, he has no interest in letting go of “An Irish Carol.”
“I will never tire of this piece,” Adams says. “I’m sure I’m getting up there to an age where they might want to get a younger man to do it, but they’ll have to carry me out in a box.”
A decade ago, Morella considered various gimmicks for a solo take on “A Christmas Carol,” including one in which an adult Tiny Tim recalls the tale. Then Morella reread the novella, realized Dickens had done all of the work for him and performed a version in which he recites the original text by the light of a Christmas fire. In doing so, he puts on a variety of personas to play the narrator, Scrooge and the cast of supporting characters.
“The language works for you, particularly with Scrooge,” says Morella, 64. “My Scrooge has sort of evolved by utilizing the descriptions that Dickens gives: squeezing, wrenching, scraping, clutching, grasping.”
Unlike Wallace and Adams, Morella doesn’t have new castmates who freshen the rhythm of the show every holiday season. But he says he still makes an effort to disassemble the play and rebuild it from year to year, all while keeping the ghost story “99 percent” true to Dickens’s text.
“This was something that I never anticipated would reach this long,” Morella says. “It’s almost been this kind of congregation that grows, and I refer to it as preaching the gospel according to Dickens.”
A Christmas Carol
Ford’s Theatre, 511 10th St. NW. 888-616-0270. fords.org.
An Irish Carol
Keegan Theatre, 1742 Church St. NW. 202-265-3767. keegantheatre.com.
Dates: Through Dec. 31.
A Christmas Carol
Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd., Olney. 301-924-3400. olneytheatre.org.
Dates: Through Dec. 29.