One man, three performances: ‘A Christmas Carol’ comes to Katharine Cornell

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Neil McGarry in "A Christmas Carol." —Photo courtesy Neil McGarry

A special one-man production of “A Christmas Carol,” starring Neil McGarry of the Bay Colony Shakespeare Company, will come to the Katharine Cornell Theatre for three performances on Dec. 11 and 12.

Mr. McGarry founded Bay Colony Shakespeare Company three years ago. He said, “It started as a way to create my own work,” while still fulfilling his duties as a stay-at-home dad. The company, which has performed all over Eastern Massachusetts, originally intended “A Christmas Carol” to star three actors. However, when they ran into funding issues, director Ross MacDonald asked Mr. McGarry, “Didn’t you used to do ‘A Christmas Carol’ as a solo reading?”

It turned out to be a perfect fit. Mr. McGarry’s last one-man show, “Burbage … The Man Who Made Shakespeare Famous” was named an Alternate for the New York International Fringe Festival, and awarded the Black Box Fellowship from Boston University’s Boston Playwrights’ Theatre.

Mr. McGarry has always harbored a love for the classic Dickens story. “I love the book. I’ve had a longstanding relationship with it from the time I was a kid,” Mr. McGarry said. “I played Scrooge in a high school play. I already knew I wanted to be a classical actor, and that was the first play my parents saw when they believed I had a chance of acting as a career.”

Mr. McGarry said performing “A Christmas Carol” is “a privilege, and I do it from a place of love.” Now in its third year, the show is as popular as ever, with 17 performances at 12 different venues this season.

No doubt, Mr. McGarry’s performance drives the show. The Independent Reviewers of New England named “A Christmas Carol” Best Solo Performance of 2014. Reviewers, such as Dr. Al Chase of the White Rhino Report, called last year’s show “deeply moving … one of the most artistic, creative and energetic performances of the 2014 Boston theater season.” Others, such as Beverly Creasey of Boston Arts Review, agree: “McGarry’s performance is extraordinary … He inhabits every inch of these charming characters.” The show uses a trunk as a prop to symbolize Scrooge’s baggage and move the narrative forward, while sound effects round out the plot.

“One-man shows can be lonely, and definitely daunting to perform,” Mr. McGarry said. “This one is a tremendous amount of joy.” Mr. McGarry says that joy comes from the ability to focus on Dickens’ original text and story. “Dickens is the star,” Mr. McGarry said. “If I do my job, his voice is released, and it reaches people, it changes them through words. I’m still surprised at the power of it after all these years.”

“A Christmas Carol” by the Bay Colony Shakespeare Company at the Katharine Cornell Theatre, Dec. 11 at 7:30 pm, Dec. 12 at 2 pm and 7:30 pm. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 seniors and students, and $12 veterans/active service members. For more information, visit baycolonyshakespeare.org.