In his first major role in 14 years, the artistic director of Columbus Children’s Theatre will play Ebenezer Scrooge in the group’s production of Mr. Scrooge, which will open on Friday.
“My whole early career, I was an actor; that’s all I ever wanted to do,” said Goldsmith, 64. “I got away from that when I started producing and directing and administrating. There was no time."
Since portraying Captain Hook in Peter Pan in 2001, Goldsmith has appeared onstage only as an emergency replacement for ill or injured actors.
What prompted him to play Scrooge was the change the character undergoes after visits from the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
“So my goal is to be honest and actually experience the joy onstage.”
In part because of Goldsmith’s return to the stage, the production has become a homecoming of sorts.
Among the cast is Claire Paniccia — who acted in many Columbus Children’s Theatre productions as a child, including the role of Tiny Tim in Mr. Scrooge in 1999.
The 25-year-old University District resident hasn’t acted in seven years, she said.
“When I heard Bill was playing Scrooge, I had to do it,” said Paniccia, who is portraying the Ghost of Christmas Past. “He was my first artistic mentor as a kid, and I’ve never shared the stage with him.”
In addition, two other cast members are returning to a space with which they are very familiar. The husband-and-wife team of Ken Erney and Catherine Cryan were founding members of the CATCO organization, which used the Park Street theater as its first home.
Neither has performed in the theater since 1997. Erney is portraying the Undertaker in Mr. Scrooge; Cryan plays Mrs. Fezziwig.
“Being in that space holds so many memories,” Erney said. “It’s nice to see Bill act again. He’s a terrific actor. I’m enjoying his take on Scrooge a lot, and I think the audience will, too.”
Because the production is recommended for age 4 and older, Scrooge isn’t as harsh and the ghosts aren’t as frightening as in a more adult version of The Christmas Carol, the Charles Dickens novel from which the story is adapted.
The one-act production lasts about an hour, but Columbus Children’s Theatre will deliver 29 performances during the next three-plus weeks.
“That will be the longest run in the history of the organization,” Goldsmith said. “When you’re onstage, there’s a juice; you feed off the energy of the audience. But still you’re exhausted at the end of the day.”