Veteran actor takes on Scrooge for Trinity's 50th 'Christmas Carol'

Veteran actor takes on Scrooge for Trinity's 50th 'Christmas Carol'

Fred Sullivan Jr. plays Scrooge in this year's performance of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," as adapted by Adrian Hall and Richard Cumming, and directed by Tyler Dobrowsky. Trinity Repertory Company showings run through Dec. 28.

When Fred Sullivan Jr. steps onto the stage in this year's "A Christmas Carol" at Trinity Rep, it will be his 22nd appearance in the fabled show. "I've played every single character I could possibly play," said Sullivan in our recent interview outside the Chace Theater. "The joke around here is, you haven't played Tiny Tim, and no, I haven't."

For 2013, Trinity's 50th anniversary, Curt Columbus "thought it would be fun" to have Sullivan play Scrooge. "The last time I played it was 14 years ago and I was 39 years old," says Sullivan. "I had them build a big yak wig. It was a wig out of yak hair because I wanted thick, thick hair like George C. Scott. And I built up my eyebrows to make them gray because in those days, my hair wasn't gray quite yet. And I had a limp and I talked like John Barrymore, and I don't think I was very good."

And now, 14 years later, Sullivan thinks he's ready. "I seem to be the right age. I just turned 53 on Sunday, and in Dickensian London, that's an old, old man."

Sullivan's first "Christmas Carol" was in 1985. "I played the nephew, Fred. I was so fond of the show." In the 1996 version, Sullivan played the narrator, Marley, Christmas Past, Christmas Present, Christmas Future and the Turkey Boy. "I checked off a lot of characters in that show," says Sullivan with a chuckle.

He truly loves playing Scrooge. "It's a magnificent role. Every single line. Shocking, and funny, and human, and surprising. Even at his meanest, he's really witty." Sullivan likens Scrooge to some of the greatest roles written by Shakespeare. "They usually start out as one person and end up as a different person. They look into the void, they look into the nature of existence, and I think that's what Scrooge does."

Sullivan takes the role very seriously. "It's a big responsibility," he says. "To honor Dickens, to honor the audience, to honor Trinity's 50th." And it's all worthwhile when he hears the audience reaction. "There's nothing more rewarding than hearing kids laugh," he says. "That's Christmas to me."

Sullivan and his cast mates will perform nine or 10 shows each week "all the way until after Christmas. That's almost two full months."

So when does Sullivan plan to get his own Christmas shopping done?

"Bah humbug!"

Trinity Rep presents the Charles Dickens classic, "A Christmas Carol," through Dec. 28. For tickets and information, visit www.trinityrep.com or call 401-351-4242.

Joe Wilson Jr., left, plays the Ghost of Christmas Present alongside Fred Sullivan Jr.'s Scrooge in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," as adapted by Adrian Hall and Richard Cumming, showing at Trinity Repertory Company through Dec. 28. The show is directed by Tyler Dobrowsky.