Communique: "Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol" | Cape Fear Playhouse

Nov 29, 2018

In Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is redeemed. But what about Jacob Marley? Does he carry his heavy chains for eternity? Award-winning play Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol was called "nothing less than an anthem to human nature" by the Chicago Tribune. Big Daw Productions presents the show through December 16. 

The actor playing Marley is also an award-winner --Randy Davis received the Wilmington Theatre Best Actor award for his portrayal in 2016. He's playing the part again (actually, for the 4th time), along with Steve Vernon as Ebeneezer Scrooge, Vanessa Welch as the Bogle (a hell-sprite trying to save Marley's soul), and Fracaswell Hyman as Record Keeper. Steve, Vanessa, and Fracaswell play numerous other roles as well--Fezziwig, Cratchit, Ghosts, and more.

The performance is onstage  November 29--December 16 at the Cape Fear Playhouse at 613 Castle Street. Showtimes are at 8:00pm Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays with Sunday matinees at 3:00pm. Thursday night tickets are discounted for everyone; seniors, military, and student tickets are discounted every performance. Tickets are available online, by telephone at 910-367-5237 (leave a message), and at the door.

Listen to our conversation with Randy Davis above; find our extended conversation below.

Gina: Randy, Big Dawg is producing "Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol" for the fourth time.

Randy: That is correct. Actually, this is our second time. The first two times was Steve Vernon's company BUMP Productions—Steve Vernon, who's now artistic director. I've done it four times. Steve's done it four times. My wife Vanessa, who plays the little hell-sprite in the show, has also done it four times.

Gina: And then we have...

Randy: Cas Hyman is our fourth actor. This is his second time. He did it with us two years ago.

Gina: Right. So clearly, there's some love for this show.

Randy: Absolutely. Fifteen years ago, we were trying to figure out a Christmas show and we had read dozens and didn't like anything and I found this script. I only read Act One and I called Steve and said, "We are doing this show. Stop looking, stop reading." And we fell in love with it instantly and still do.

Gina: And that was 15 years ago?

Randy: That was 2004, I believe we did it first.

Gina: And you did that with BUMP?

Randy: Yes, we sure did. In the studio theater at Thalian Hall.

Randy Davis (Marley) and Vanessa Welch (Bogle)
Credit Big Dawg Productions

Gina: And what is the magic of this show? I will say, you know, for full disclosure, I have seen this show and I did love it. What is it about this show that's so fabulous?

Randy: I think so many companies do "Christmas Carol" all over the country and all over the world, and it's just a chance to see a story that everybody knows in a different way of the history of the show. Originally the author was playing Scrooge in Chicago and one year, his friend brought his daughter to see the show. And the daughter came up afterwards and said, "It's not fair. Scrooge gets redemption, but Marley doesn't get redemption. It's not fair." And he thought about it and thought about it and it bugged him. So he wrote this show that shows Jacob Marley's path to redemption through redeeming Scrooge.

Gina: Can you give us a description of the characters who are in the show?

Randy: Well, the story is told by four storytellers. We all narrate the action as well as play characters. I play Jacob Marley and only Marley. Steve Vernon plays Scrooge mostly. He also plays some demons in hell and things like that. Vanessa Welch, my wife, plays The Bogle, which is a little hell-sprite that is assigned to Marley—kind of his little mischievous Jiminy Cricket. And the fourth actor Cas plays everyone else. He plays Fezziwig, he plays Cratchit. He plays demons as well.

Randy: That's right.

Gina: Fracaswell (“Cas”), one of the big performances he had this year was in "Fences."

Fracaswell Hyman (L) as Hell's Record Keeper & Randy Davis (Marley)
Credit Big Dawg Productions

Randy: Yes, as Troy, the lead character. He was absolutely incredible. Actually after seeing that, I went to him and said, "So I assume you're playing Marley this year and I'll just play the other character," because he is just an incredible actor.

Gina: He is.

Randy: I did win Best Actor 2018 in Wilmington for playing Jacob Marley two years ago, which is great. I consider it the best work I've ever done in the last 15 years.

Gina: This role?

Randy: This role.

Gina: Steve Vernon said to me—I checked with him about who was playing which roles, which I figured it was the same—but I said, "Randy plays Marley?" And Steve said, "No. Randy inhabits entirely, completely enveloped in Marley."

Randy: That's very kind. The first half of the show, he is just such an evil, horrible human being. And the second half, once he starts to go through his redemption, is just so touching and so moving. It's funny, but I also spend most of Act Two just bawling my eyes out on stage. It really has everything. It's just an incredible show.

Randy: His main role is The Record Keeper, who is the person that kind of oversees the afterlife; all-knowing, omnipotent. And he just plays him as this kind-hearted little man that at same time is totally terrifying, and he brings so many aspects to this small little role. It's just truly wonderful

Gina: And tell me about Vanessa playing the... bogey? Boogie?

Randy: The Bogle.

Gina: The Bogle.

Randy: The Bogle is an interesting little character. At first you think she's just there to torment Marley, but then you learn that she also has something on the line, that this is also her chance to prove herself to the powers that be. But my wife playing a hell-sprite whose only purpose in life is to torment me... it's not too much of a stretch, I gotta say.

Gina: She's going to love hearing that.

Randy: I've used that line for years.

Gina: And that's everyone, right?

Randy: Mhm.

Gina: A lot of us in town know a lot about Tony Rivenbark playing Scrooge.

Randy: That's true.

Gina: In fact, he's going to be on stage as Scrooge. Tell me about Steve Vernon's Scrooge.

Randy: Steve Vernon's Scrooge is unlike most, but I think that's also partly the script. He's still just a horrible, horrible human being, but the way his heart just gets ripped open and you see Steve sitting there looking at his grave and everything else... it's a lot more touching than most versions of "Christmas Carol."

Gina: Steve draws on so much. It's just this infinite well of emotion when he's onstage.

Randy: Always. Yes, he is absolutely incredible, and him being so good pushes the rest of us to be even better.

Gina: The last two times you've put this show on, it has sold out.

Randy: Yes. If you want tickets, you had best move fast.

Gina: I asked Steve Vernon about the music in the show and I found that he has found a way to bring Queen into this show.

Randy: Any show that Steve can find a place to bring Queen into will make Steve happy. And he has actually. We actually got rid of the pre-show music this time and just have a soundscape full of ghostly, hellish sounds and everything else. It really adds a different element to the show that's really nice.

Gina: And then the bit of Queen that he pulls in is a very unusual—and I'm sure widely unknown—instrumental.

Gina: Tell me what role Cas plays that you like the best.

Randy: His main role is The Record Keeper, who is the person that kind of oversees the afterlife; all-knowing, omnipotent. And he just plays him as this kind-hearted little man that at same time is totally terrifying, and he brings so many aspects to this small little role. It's just truly wonderful

Gina: And tell me about Vanessa playing the... bogey? Boogie?

Randy: The Bogle.

Gina: The Bogle.

Randy: The Bogle is an interesting little character. At first you think she's just there to torment Marley, but then you learn that she also has something on the line, that this is also her chance to prove herself to the powers that be. But my wife playing a hell-sprite whose only purpose in life is to torment me... it's not too much of a stretch, I gotta say.

Gina: She's going to love hearing that.

Randy: I've used that line for years.

Gina: And that's everyone, right?

Randy: Mhm.

Gina: A lot of us in town know a lot about Tony Rivenbark playing Scrooge.

Randy: That's true.

Gina: In fact, he's going to be on stage as Scrooge. Tell me about Steve Vernon's Scrooge.

Randy: Steve Vernon's Scrooge is unlike most, but I think that's also partly the script. He's still just a horrible, horrible human being, but the way his heart just gets ripped open and you see Steve sitting there looking at his grave and everything else... it's a lot more touching than most versions of "Christmas Carol."

Gina: Steve draws on so much. It's just this infinite well of emotion when he's on stage.

Randy: Always. Yes, he is absolutely incredible, and him being so good pushes the rest of us to be even better.

Gina: The last two times you've put this show on, it has sold out.

Randy: Yes. We've already sold out multiple shows of our 12 for this run, so if you want tickets, you had best move fast.

Gina: Thank you sir.

Randy: Absolutely. Thank you.