Jefferson Mays is back on Broadway playing 50 different characters in his one-man version of “A Christmas Carol,” now running at the Nederlander Theatre for a limited engagement through Jan. 1.
In the latest episode of “The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal,” Mays discusses the process of bringing the Michael Arden-helmed production to Broadway and shares the unique way he memorized the script.
“This is ‘A Christmas Carol’ which is never apart from me,” Mays said, motioning to a book he brought with him. “I wrote it by hand in pencil.”
Mays carries the book, which contains the entire script of the play, with him everywhere he goes in order to “consult” it. It doesn’t contain any notes — only the dialogue. He noted to Fadal that the text is Dickens’ own, which normally takes three hours to read, but his play is a “lean” 90 minutes. Mays said writing the script out, as well as being in motion with the book, helped him memorize his lines.
“I just love always walking the streets of Manhattan muttering ‘A Christmas Carol’ to myself.”
This iteration of “A Christmas Carol” was conceived by Dane Laffrey (who provides the scenic and costume design for the production) and Arden. Mays, Arden and writer Susan Lyons worked together to adapt the production, which debuted at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles in 2018. Due to the pandemic and “other things,” Mays told Fadal, the production has been on a four-year hiatus.
Mays, who departed the current revival of “The Music Man” to bring “A Christmas Carol” to Broadway compared the experience of playing more than four dozen characters in 90 minutes to stepping on a magic carpet.
“It all passes in this hallucinatory blur. And then it’s over,” said Mays. “It’s the fastest 90 minutes I’ve ever spent in my life.”
“A Christmas Carol” is now in previews and will officially open on Nov. 21.
This week’s episode of “The Broadway Show” also features seven-time Broadway veteran Brandon Uranowitz, current star of “Leopoldstadt,” walking and talking through his career with Paul Wontorek. Viewers can also catch a glimpse inside the legendary Theater District eatery Joe Allen, named after the restauranteur who passed away in 2021. Other episode highlights include interviews from the opening nights of “Kimberly Akimbo” and “Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man & The Pool,” the 25th-anniversary performance of “The Lion King” and the debut of the brand-new Museum of Broadway.
“The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal” airs on weekends. Check your local listings for air time and channel.