As the voice of Big Boss on the video game Metal Gear Solid 3 as well as characters on Batman, Ben Ten and Spider-Man cartoons, Richard Doyle is used to working remotely, but now that he can emerge from COVID-19 quarantine conditions the veteran actor is excited to perform for a live audience again.
Even if it means filling the shoes of a colleague who played Scrooge in South Coast Repertory’s “A Christmas Carol” for 40 years before stepping aside.
“I’m really looking forward to being in front of an audience. It’s really a lot of fun,” Doyle told City News Service in between rehearsals before he takes the stage as the theater company’s new Scrooge this Saturday.
Hal Landon starred in the annual holiday staging of the Charles Dickens classic for the previous 40 productions. Then the production was skipped last year due to the pandemic and Doyle did a reading of another Dickens holiday story, “The Chimes” for subscribers.
It won’t be that much of an adjustment, he said.
“I’ve been a friend of Hal Landon’s for years — both of our careers paralleled each other and we founded the theater company together,” Doyle said. “He and I have raised four children together. They’ve even appeared in the show with us.”
Doyle was also Landon’s understudy in his farewell tour, and he has played many roles in the play through the years, he said.
He’ll also find continuity with Hisa Takakuwa directing, as Takakuwa was assistant director for 14 years.
There’s a new twist, though, he said.
“I cannot play the Ghost of Christmas Past, which has been the role I’ve essayed for 16 or 17 years,” Doyle said. “So my wife (Jennifer Parsons) is now playing that role. She previously played Mrs. Cratchit.”
Parsons, who has played Peter Pan in the past, “has a whimsical, elfin way about her,” Doyle said. “She comes on stage and takes me all through these difficult events in my life, growing up and into young adulthood, and I’m off-guard because of the way she presents it and I’m forced into off-guardedness to ingest this, and it lands. And those are the kind of things that move Scrooge to his epiphany.”
The program for this year’s show includes the Tennyson poem “Ring Out, Wild Bells,” and Doyle pointed out one of the lines is, “Ring out old shapes of foul disease.”
“He was saying this in 1840 and here we are in 2021 just coming out of COVID,” Doyle said. “He’s telling us to put this behind us and let’s go into the new year. … We wanted people to see that as much as things change thy kind of stay the same and (it’s) time to take some of these opportunities and use them to kind of jar us and catapult us into a new vision of what possibilities exist if we extend kindness and care and generosity to other people.”
That sentiment is at the heart of Scrooge’s journey, Doyle said.
Doyle, who is also the voice of the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, recalled how that event was able to return this summer with some COVID-19 protocols.
“After being off for a year we had a chance to come back to do it that was slow getting started,” he said. “I was very separate from the audience and I came in with a mask on, stayed in a booth there. The audience was sparing at first, maybe 1,500 people and they all wore masks, but it built up during the summer.
“They understood if they were vaccinated and could go with a mask on they could sit and watch a show with friends and that’s so communal,” he added. “That’s the nature of live theater and it was such a joy. That is what we are so looking forward to — that communal celebration, sharing those moments with the SCR audience as we perform this story on stage.”
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