Hartford Stage's adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" has become a Connecticut tradition, thanks in part to actor Bill Raymond's portrayal of the character Scrooge. But after 17 years, Raymond has said he will step away from the role after this year.
At 78 years old, and still at the top of his game, Raymond said it's time to let another actor take on the cold -hearted miser.
Oddly enough, Raymond isn't the first Scrooge to retire after 17 years.
"Charles Dickens, as Scrooge, did it for 17 years," he said. "John Barrymore, as Scrooge, did it for 17 years."
Raymond already had an extensive resume in film, TV and experimental theater when he was tapped to play Scrooge 19 years ago.
At first, he was reluctant to take on the role. He didn't think people would find him mean enough, but a call from the stage manager at the time, Wendy Beaton, helped him make up his mind.
"She says, I have to tell you something: you are going to love Hartford. You are going to be the most popular man in town. I said, Well, maybe I better go," Raymond said.
Raymond said he came to the role with no preconceived notions of who Scrooge was, but he admitted there is one cinematic Scrooge from his boyhood that did influence him.
"[Scottish actor] Alastair Sim is the reason I wanted to do what I do," Raymond said. "There is a little bit of Sim's Scrooge in my interpretation."
Raymond's extensive training in mime helped him fine tune his Scrooge, making the transformation from a bitter and angry soul to a joyful and exuberant spirit even more dramatic.
Raymond's performance of Scrooge has helped make Hartford Stage's "A Christmas Carol" a holiday tradition for many.
He said that after 17 years, Scrooge, like that actor that portrays him, has evolved.
"Scrooge has lost some hair," laughed Raymond. "Scrooge has gotten a little more wicked in a funny way, and a little more grumpy in another, and probably a little more responsibly pathetic."
"There is so much I will miss about 'A Christmas Carol,'" he said. "I will miss the people I am working with. I will miss the stage itself, which is such a lovely, perfectly sized stage. I will miss the process of it; I will miss the process of being involved in this whole thing. Most of all, I will miss those people who keep coming back, the people who love it, and the people who hate it."
Bill Raymond's last performance as Scrooge is Friday, December 30 at Hartford Stage.