Those who’ve gotten to know the kindness and generosity of actor and longtime Venice canals resident Orson Bean may have a hard time picturing him as Scrooge — that is until you think about how much fun he’d have with the role. (Trust us: he nails it.)
For the 14th time in about as many years, Bean and wife Allie Mills are reprising their free community staging of “A Christmas Carol” with three performances this weekend at the First Lutheran Church of Venice.
The performances are free to all — especially kids, who sit upfront — on a first-come, first-served basis.
Bean and Mills make a special effort to include kids in the play and engage young people in the audience who may otherwise get few if any chances to experience the magic of live theater.
“That’s why it’s really important that the shows are free. We don’t even pass a hat. This show is a gift to the community,” Mills said.
Though the story was written in 1843, it still appeals to contemporary audiences, Bean said.
“I think it’s because Scrooge genuinely changes. The meaner he is in the beginning, the more exciting the change is at the end,” said Bean, who just wrapped up a successful one-man show at Pacific Resident Theatre.
But this isn’t serious business. Bean, who was both a frequent guest (200 times) and regular guest host of “The Tonight Show” in Johnny Carson’s day (for 100-plus appearances), believes the unique thing about his version of “A Christmas Carol” is that’s it’s filled with humor.
“I know the parts of the show where the kids get bored and start throwing popcorn at each other. I just left those out, put in a bunch of jokes and left Dickens’ heart,” said Bean, also a staple of the TV game show circuit from the 1950s to the early ‘90s. “I just play my grumbly self.”
— Shanee Edwards and Joe Piasecki
Stagings of Orson Bean’s “A Christmas Carol” begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11, and at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 12 and 13, at First Lutheran Church of Venice, 815 Venice Blvd., Venice. Free; first come, first served.