New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media


Mary Anne Carter Confirmed as National Endowment for the Arts Chairman
Click here for the story

Paul Benedict As Scrooge... Brilliant!

By Gary Wien


You probably know him best as Bentley on "The Jeffersons" but Paul Benedict has had a truly remarkable acting career. His body of work includes films like "The Freshman", "The Addams Family", and "Waiting For Guffman". His stage credits include runs on Broadway in Eugene O'Neill's Hughie (opposite Al Pacino), Meredith Willson's The Music Man, Terrence McNally's Bad Habits, and William Shakespeare's Richard III. This December, Benedict tackles a role from one of his favorite novels of all-time, "A Christmas Carol" when he becomes this year's Scrooge in McCarter Theatre's annual production of the holiday classic.

I had a chance to speak with Benedict while the play was in rehearsals.

Tell me about playing a character like Scrooge. He's such a part of society and our history that everybody knows the character deeply. What is it like to tackle a role like that?
Oh, it's wonderful. It's always been a favorite story of mine. I'm a little long in the tooth - I'm 68 - and it's tough to take on a role this size with this much running around at my age, but I'm happy doing it.

It's a great story. It's one of those five or six great stories that have ever been conceived and will last forever. It's an interesting thing that everybody who comes except for the little children have heard the story before. And that's good, they're sort of prepared with it.

I had an odd early life where my family broke up when I was about five and I went into state homes with my brothers and sisters and I bounced around a bit. It was very Dickensian. It's very hard to get a Dickensian youth in this country, so I think that helps me a lot. There's a lot to draw on there. I keep running into things in rehearsals and the play that suddenly drive home a memory to me that I'd forgotten for sixty years! That's a wonderful thing when that happens. It feeds what's going on.

The trick about playing Scrooge that you find out when you play it is that it's basically the same as a Shakespearian role in that the language of Charles Dickens is very, very rich like Shakespeare's. And his journey is the most amazing journey from the worst man in the world to the best man in the world. The emotional flip flop that you go through is enormous. It's like playing one of the big Shakespearian characters. I was surprised to find that out.

Is it difficult for the cast of a play like The Christmas Carol to keep things fresh when most of the audience will likely have seen it before?
Well if you go on stage and do Hamlet you're telling a familiar story. I don't think there's any problem with that. I would just like to think that it's a great delight for the kids who may have heard about A Christmas Carol but never gotten the story before. I think it must be a great delight.

It's funny, I can still remember reading it for the first time. It wasn't that early, I was in the 7th grade when I first read it. It just knocked me out of my socks. It's wonderful.

It's one of the few stories that can be done in so many different ways - drama, comedy, musical, etc.

I like what Michael (Unger) has done because the blend of comedy and drama is really good. Some of it should make them cry, I hope; and a great deal of it should make them laugh. It's wonderful to do a piece like that where it isn't just drama or just comedy.

You've done a lot of work on stage, television and film. What is it like to be a character actor when you happen to stumble across a role like that of Bentley on The Jeffersons which lives on forever. Did you find people casting you towards that type of role or were cast opposite that of a Bentley?
No, unfortunately in this business if you do something that seems to work everybody follows. It's like when I first started acting on stage they found out I was good at comedy and then that's all they wanted to cast me in. And that's been true most of my career, I have to fight to get anything that's dramatic.

Well I thought you being cast for Scrooge was brilliant.
Well, God knows I'm old enough! Thank you for saying that, but what's right about it is my age and by cooincidence my life. It's terribly appealing to me. Any actor would love to play this role.

I don't know if you've heard about this or how much you use the Internet, but you'd be amazed at how many clips people have posted on Youtube of you from your days on Sesame Street as the Number Painter.
Somebody has been telling me about that and the director brought in a little thing and showed me a couple of them. I'd forgotten what they even looked like it was so long ago. We shot them in 1969 and they started showing them in 1970 - that's a long time ago.

And I don't do computers! I'm trying to get off the planet without ever using them or cellphones. I hope I make it, we'll see.

It's funny about the things that last forever.
Yeah, that's right. Most of them are very good things and some very bad things too.

One of the things I love about theatre is that it's very much dealing with the present or in the now.
Exactly! Luckily in a nice way, I'm stopped sometimes by people on the street and I think oh, they're going to say weren't you on "The Jeffersons" or I loved this movie or something. But then some of them will say 'do you know when you did that speech?' and they'll name a play from 30 years ago. Some of their remarks are wonderful. The feeling of something they went through when they went to see the play. That's always extremely rewarding. I'm always floored by that because it's so much better in a way than being told you were great in a movie five years ago.



For more by this author, click here




More Articles You Might Like

The Simon & Garfunkel Story Comes To The Basie On January 23
The Simon & Garfunkel Story Comes To The Basie On January 23
Luna Stage Explores What It Means To Be American In 2019-20 Season
Luna Stage Explores What It Means To Be American In 2019-20 Season
East Lynne Theater Company presents "The Rainmaker"
East Lynne Theater Company presents "The Rainmaker"
CASTING CALL: For "Love & Let Love" - A Musical Adaptation Of Twelfth Night
CASTING CALL: For "Love & Let Love" - A Musical Adaptation Of Twelfth Night
NJ Rep Presents the World Premiere Of "Memoirs of a Forgotten Man"
NJ Rep Presents the World Premiere Of "Memoirs of a Forgotten Man"
Mary McDonnell To Star In "Gloria: A Life" at McCarter Theatre Center
Mary McDonnell To Star In "Gloria: A Life" at McCarter Theatre Center






Event calendar
Saturday, Aug 24, 2019


MUSIC


Game Grumps Live @ The Stone Pony Summer Stage, Asbury Park - 6:00pm

SOLID BRONZE @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

WHO'S BAD: THE ULTIMATE MICHAEL JACKSON EXPERIENCE @ Asbury Lanes, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

GLEN BURTNIK'S SUMMER OF LOVE CONCERT @ Sound Waves at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 8:00pm

NICKELBACK @ Hard Rock Live Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 8:00pm

O Sole Trio: Bravissimo Broadway @ Avenel Performing Arts Center, Avenel - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Santana and The Doobie Brothers @ BB&T Pavilion, Camden - 7:00pm

Lola Montez & Special Guests @ Dingbatz, Clifton - 8:00pm

LEILA FOROUHAR & MANSOUR LIVE IN CONCERT @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:30pm

FREE CONCERT - THE GREEN PLANET at MAGGIE'S TIKI BAR & GRILL in JACKSON, NJ @ Maggie's Bar and Grill in Jackson / Lakewood, NJ!, Jackson - 5:30pm

TED LEO AND THE PHARMACISTS @ White Eagle Hall, Jersey City - 8:30pm

WOODSTOCK 2019 @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 1:00pm

Cirotti Trio @ Middle Valley Community Center, Long Valley - 7:30pm


Rufus Wainwright @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Sugar Mountain @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Memoirs of a Forgotten Man @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 3:00pm and 8:00pm

Frozen Jr. @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 2:00pm and 7:00pm


DANCE


View all events

























New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 | info@newjerseystage.com

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.