New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media


For great Jersey music and much more, tune into our radio station at AsburyMusic.com

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






Center Players Presents "The Emperor's New Duds"
(FREEHOLD, NJ) --  Center Players Dessert Theater will present a family-friendly production of “The Emperor’s New Duds” at Center Playhouse, 35 South St, in downtown Freehold, NJ from December 7 – 16. A musical adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” the play was written by Bernice Garfield-Szita, who co-directed the production with Enid Bush.
Centenary Stage’s Young Performers Workshop presents 2018 Winter Festival of Shows
(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell is composed of various musical parables from The Gospel. Jesus Christ recruits a group of followers and teaches them various lessons through song and dance. Toward the end of the second act, the show begins to follow a more linear narrative as Jesus is betrayed by Judas and eventually crucified. Performances are Sunday, December 9 at 5:00pm; Saturday, December 15 at 8pm and Sunday, December 16 at 7:30pm.
The Shakespeare Theatre Presents "The Winter's Tale"
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run from December 5 to December 30. 
American Theater Group Announces Full Cast & Creative For "Tell Them I'm Still Young"
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- American Theater Group has announced the full cast and creative team for its World Premiere production of Tell Them I’m Still Young, a new play by Julia Doolittle, which will run at the South Orange Performing Arts Center from January 24 - February 3, 2019. Joining the previously announced Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Streets, Men of a Certain Age, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) andMichele Pawk (Hollywood Arms, Hairspray, Mamma Mia) are Janice Amaya (Seen/Unseen) and Seth Clayton (The Madrid).
Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.


Broadway’s Mandy Gonzalez LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
Broadway is in the house at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts with a Fearless live concert performance by Broadway star, Mandy Gonzalez!
"The Spitfire Grill" and Caitlin Geisser Return To Their Roots
“I saw something in her that you rarely come across,” recalled Ted Wioncek III, Artistic Director at Eagle Theatre in Hammonton. “She’s more than wise beyond her years; I believe she’s going to be a game-changer and a trendsetter for this art form.”
Broadway’s Next H!T Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s Friday, October 26, 2018, and the Broadway’s Next H!T Musical cast is just about ready to take the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ.
The Last Apple Pie: "Apples In Winter" Opens At Centenary Stage
Jennifer Fawcett’s new play centers around a mother in a kitchen, doing something countless people across America will take part in over the upcoming holiday season: making an apple pie.
See Andrea McArdle LIVE! in Annie at Deal Park’s Axelrod PAC!
Leapin’ Lizards! Annie’s finally made it to the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal Park, NJ, and it stars Broadway’s original Annie, Andrea McArdle, as Miss Hannigan!










Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


MUSIC

THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

THE FAB FAUX A HARD DAY'S NIGHT AND REVOLVER IN THEIR ENTIRETIES @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


COMEDY

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


DANCE

BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


KIDS

ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm


LECTURE

Mainebiz Health Care Forum @ Mainebiz Health Care Forum, Newyork - 8:00pm

View all events
























New Jersey Stage © 2018 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 | 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.