‘Connecticut Christmas Carol’ debuts at Goodspeed Chester
Lenny Wolpe has a face that’s been seen by millions, having appeared in numerous Broadway shows, Broadway national tours and on off-Broadway stages throughout his long career and in about 100 guest spots on prime-time television.
He’s what they call a successful “working actor,” a pro who is seemingly always in demand. This holiday season, Wolpe comes to Connecticut to star in a new musical that, like his visage, will be familiar to just about all.
A “family classic has been given a fresh twist” in “A Connecticut Christmas Carol,” by L J Fecho and Michael O’Flaherty, at Goodspeed Musicals Nov. 17 through Dec. 24, it was announced. It will be directed by Hunter Foster.
Wolpe will play the dual role of Scrooge and actor William Gillette, a very real early-20th century Connecticut figure who was renowned for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on stages here and abroad.
Wolpe is no stranger to Goodspeed audiences, having last appeared as Captain Andy in its production of “Show Boat,” as well as the Baker in “The Baker’s Wife,” and in “Little Johnny Jones” and “She Loves Me.” On Broadway, he’s performed in “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Wicked,” “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “The Sound of Music,” Mayor Koch in “Mayor,” “Into the Light,” “Copperfield” and “Onward Victoria,” and in national tours of “Wicked,” “Guys and Dolls” and “South Pacific,” among others. Off-Broadway, the actor was featured in “Old Jews Telling Jokes,” “Marry Harry” and the New York Spring Spectacular at Radio City.
The actor said he owes much of his good fortune to George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium box office, where he was helping out in the early 1970s while working on his bachelor’s degree in American history.
The Terris Theatre, 33 N. Main St., Chester. Nov. 17- Dec. 24. Wednesdays 2, 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays 7:30 p.m. (select dates also at 2 p.m.); Fridays 8 p.m.; Saturdays 3, 8 p.m.; Sundays 2 p.m. (select dates also at 6:30 p.m.). Check online for schedule of Thanksgiving week performances. Tickets start at $49; discount Kid Tix, $25, Nov. 17-19, ages 5-18, all performances. 860-873-8668, goodspeed.org
“I always loved numbers,” he said. “If I didn’t become an actor, I probably would have become an accountant. So I thought, ‘Why not give the box office a try?’”
That led to small parts in GWU productions and eventually to auditioning for larger roles, which he won. That, in turn, led to the notice of a drama professor, the late Nate Garner, who assured him he had talent worth developing.
“He gave me some good advice. He said I should give (acting) a shot until I was 30. And if things didn’t work out, I would have plenty of time to find something else,” Wolpe said.
It worked out. After GWU in Washington, D.C., Wolpe moved on to the University of Minnesota, where he received a graduate degree to teach drama, met his future wife and found enormous opportunities to act on the many professional stages in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and obtain his Actors’ Equity union card.
In “A Connecticut Christmas Carol,” the theater says, “Some of the most beloved storytellers in Connecticut history come alive for a yuletide gathering you won’t forget. Famed actor and local legend William Gillette leaves his castle on the Connecticut River to adapt Dickens’ holiday classic in the 1920s.
“Local heroes Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe and P.T. Barnum make spirited appearances opposite Gillette’s Scrooge in a highly theatrical twist on a family favorite. Custom-made for Goodspeed with all-original music, here’s a tuneful, heartfelt confection spiced with enough Nutmeg State flavor to sweeten your season.”
Wolpe said the new musical has a “very different take on a classic, updated with modern sensibilities. We’re having a great time. ... It’s a great cast and the collaborative process is exciting.”
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