Thursday, December 7, 2017

Why Visiting Actor Neil McGarry Loves 'A Christmas Carol'

We're so excited to have actor Neil McGarry for our special LIVE! FOR $5 showing of the one-man 'A Christmas Carol' this Saturday!  All Island students are welcome FREE.  <-- Click here to find out more. 

Actor Neil McGarry

We were curious "Why does Neil love this play?" Here's what he had to say.  It's beautiful...

I love this story so much, and have, since I was young. I'm fairly sure I came to it first with Mr. Magoo's version. There was another animated version too, it had Alistair Sim's voice and, on a black and white TV, the images seemed designed to look like pencil sketches. 

I remember reading it on my own in the 4th grade,  devouring every film version that came my way. In 5th grade I was cast in my first play, and was playing the lead in the 5th Grade Christmas show. My teacher, Mrs. Porrazzo at Hyannis West Elementary, for reasons known only to her, used the Scrooge/Marley from the novel scene as the audition piece.

In 8th grade I discovered the great actor, Albert Finney, in the movie musical Scrooge

from left to right: 'A Christmas Carol', Neil (in character), Alistair Sim, Albert Finney

When I was seventeen I was cast as Scrooge by the extraordinary John Sullivan at Barnstable High School. John was an art teacher and Drama Director at BHS for over 30 years and went on to mentor many other students who have gone on to become professional actors, writers, directors and animators. He is an amazing person, fun, incredibly funny and a truly gifted teacher. This was in his 2nd year as Drama Director. I was seventeen and, indeed, filled with drama. 

John Sullivan, inspiration and mentor

My parents, who, rightly so, were not overly delighted with their son’s choice of profession (“There are so many things you do better Neil” they would say) were worried. I would leave the house to go to school and then not come home ‘till 11:00pm, staying after school to build sets and rehearse. When asked where I was, my scruffy, gruff, hormonal, filled with teenage angst response was “I was at rehearsal.” 

We opened the show and Mum and Dad came to the opening. It was one of those special performances that sometimes happen for young actors. And, truly, it was years before I did anything that was as good. 

Back in those days the stage would be rushed by well wishers after the curtain call. I remember stumbling and suddenly, my father had me. He just held me and held me. He was a good hugger and I had a lifetime of great hugs from him but that one was ... well, I still don’t have words for it. He then handed me to my mother, who held me no less lovingly, and who then whispered in my ear, “If you decide to do this, you’ll be okay”.

There have been many actors who have brought A Christmas Carol to life. Charles Dickens’ himself, Sir Laurence Olivier, Reginald Owen, Alistair Sim, Lionel Barrymore, Jim Backus, Albert Finney, Paul Scofield, George C. Scott, Patrick Stewart, Simon Callow - famous ones that I know and love and not famous ones that I know and love too. 

1st row: Charles Dickens, Sir Laurence Olivier, Reginald Owen, Alistair Sim,
2nd row: Lionel Barrymore, Jim Backus, Albert Finney, Paul Scofield,
3rd row: George C. Scott, Patrick Stewart, Simon Callow, Neil McGarry

However, returning to the show now for the fifth year, I am remembering my mum and dad, how much they loved Christmas, how much they loved their 10 children.  They took great pleasure in this story.  They were brilliant, beautiful people.  They never went to college and had no time for pretension, and they suffered through an awful lot of my early work.  In my 35 years on the stage, A Christmas Carol was their favorite. 

This is for them, Neil and Margaret McGarry, for their belief in me, their belief in all 10 of their children, their very deep belief in the season and their belief in what this story stands for ... and for letting me know I’d be ok. 

Wishing you all the happiest of holidays!

Thank you for coming! - Neil