Serembe taps into the Scrooge in all of us for Family Theater role

John Serembe is Scrooge.
John Serembe is Scrooge. Courtesy of Olympia Family Theater

Olympia Family Theater’s “Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol,” opening Friday, stars John Serembe, who’s not just a veteran actor but also a veteran Scrooge.

In the kid-friendly “Carol,” by Ken and Jack Ludwig, Serembe will play the miserly misanthrope for the sixth time. He first tackled the role in Laguna (California) Playhouse’s 1994 production of “Inspecting Carol,” a farce about a theater company producing its own version of Charles Dickens’ holiday ghost story.

“That was back when I had to actually put on makeup and spray my hair white,” said Serembe, who worked in TV and movies in Los Angeles for three decades before moving to Olympia seven years ago. “Now, I no longer have to do that.”

Serembe, who’s impressed Olympia audiences playing comic villains in Harlequin Productions’ “Little Shop of Horrors” and Theater Artists Olympia’s “The Head That Wouldn’t Die,” seems like a natural for the role.

It’s true, he admitted, laughing. “It’s not a big stretch,” he told The Olympian. “Obviously, I am not a Scrooge-like character, but somehow it seems to work with my personality.

“It’s not a great thing to say: ‘Hey, I’m a natural for Scrooge,’ ” he added. “But I do enjoy playing him because he’s such a ridiculous character. There’s a bit of scenery chewing going on, but that’s Scrooge, isn’t it? He is over the top.”

Also over the top is the number of variations the 1843 novella has inspired. There are too many to count, but at least two more are happening this season within an easy drive of Olympia, and adaptations aimed at kids have featured Bugs Bunny, the Muppets, the Jetsons and Mr. Magoo.

Some variants wander far from Dickens’ original intent, but “Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol” sticks to the familiar outlines of the story while cutting down on the fear factor: Tim (Zachary Clark), now a healthy teenager, retells the story of Scrooge’s conversion in a production that includes puppet ghosts.

“This is an amazing ensemble telling of the tale,” artistic director Jen Ryle told the Olympian. “I read a lot of versions, because I wanted to tell the story of Scrooge, but I wanted it to be accessible for kids and not too scary.”

“It’s fun,” Serembe said. “It’s a bit of a cartoon version of Scrooge’s story, but it still packs the same message.

“There’s a Scrooge in all of us, right?” he continued. “Not so pronounced, but as we get older, we sort of lose the excitement and the charm of the holidays. Watching somebody able to bridge the gap of the years and the removal from their childhood and their joy is heartening.

“We all want to believe that as bad as things might be, there’s still a lot of good.”

‘Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol’

What: Olympia Family Theater presents a kid-friendly retelling of Charles Dickens’ holiday classic about the spirit of Christmas.

When: 7 p.m. Friday plus Dec. 6, 7, 14 and 21 and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday plus Dec. 8, 9, 15, 16, 22 and 23

Where: Olympia Family Theater, 612 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia

Tickets: $15-$20; for the Dec. 6 show, pay what you can.

More information: 360-570-1638, olyft.org

The season of ‘Scrooge’

Want another helping of the holiday spirit? Both The Evergreen Playhouse in Centralia and the Tacoma Little Theatre are staging “Scrooge the Musical,” adapted from the 1970 film “Scrooge,” starring Albert Finney and Alec Guinness:

In Centralia: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday plus Dec. 6-8 and 13-15 and 2 p.m. Sunday plus Dec. 9 and 16, The Evergreen Playhouse, 228 W. Center St. Centralia. $12 and $15; for the Dec. 6 and 13 performances, pay what you can. 360-736-8628, theevergreenplayhouse.com

In Tacoma: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, 8, 14, 15, 20-22, 26-29 and 2 p.m. Dec. 9, 15, 16, 22, 23 and 30, Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N. I St., Tacoma. $22-$27; for the Dec. 20 performance, pay what you can. 253-272-2281, tacomalittletheatre.com