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Tom Tangney

Tom relives his theatre days in ACT’s ‘Christmas Carol’

Tom Tangney (far left) in "The Me Nobody Knows" by Gary William Friedman and Will Holt - summer 1972. (Photo by Greg Gilbert/ACT,1972)

I had an ulterior motive for doing a “walk-on” in ACT Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” this past week. I secretly wanted to relive my youth.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I had a fantastic time “performing” Wednesday night. I may have been in only three quick scenes, but ACT spares no expense with my costume. I am all decked out in a full-blown Victorian outfit, which includes a fancy maroon overcoat, a matching cravat, an ostentatious top hat and even a gold-nobbed cane.

The stage manager first walks me through my three scenes – the opening song, a London street scene, and the finale – and then leaves me in the charge of Brandon Oke, an energetic fifth grader, who plays the Turkey Boy, among many other parts. He’s in charge of my entrances and exits, and he leads me through the entrails of the theatre – it’s a theatre in the round – like a pro.

As the show opens, I join the cast in singing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” About 45 minutes later, I have my big scene with Juliette, who plays the older Cratchit daughter. We dash across the stage together, she buys an orange from a fruit seller, and then a cookie from another vendor, and off we dash.

That is it for me until the end of the show, when I come back on stage and watch Tiny Tim being lifted onto the shoulders of a rejuvenated Ebenezer Scrooge. To put the perfect bow on the show, we all sing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” one last time

As thrilling as it was to get on stage, the most fun I had was hanging out with all the actors. I shared a dressing room with one of the all-time great Seattle actors, R. Hamilton Wright (Scrooge), along with a half-dozen other actors who I’ve seen in other great shows like “Assassins” and “Stupid F-ing Bird.”

Backstage, I got a chance to talk about movies with another great Seattle veteran, Marianne Owen (Mrs. Fezziwig), and talk about Brooklyn with NYC transplant Andrew McGinn (Spirit 2).

And most nostalgically, I chatted up all the kids in the show. Why you ask? Well, it wasn’t too long ago that I was much like them. (Okay, it WAS a long time ago, it just doesn’t feel that way to me.)

This brings me to my real reason for doing ACT’s “A Christmas Carol” this year. Way back in 1972, I was a 17-year-old high-school student who was lucky enough to be cast in ACT’s production of the hit musical “The Me Nobody Knows.” For a teenager like me, this was almost too good to be true. Not only was it a rock musical, but I also got to play someone my own age! Because I was tall and had a deep voice, I almost always played older men in my Blanchet High school musicals (Horace Vandergelder in “Hello Dolly,” Mr. Babcock in “Mame,” etc.) And here I was playing an inner-city youth who was far hipper and cooler than I could ever be. And get a load of my signature song:

I love girls, I love what the girls have
Love that thing, that thing that the girls got
That thing sure is big and fine
Can’t you see how it blows my mind!

Getting to sing lyrics like that while wearing wacky 1970’s clothes was an absolute blast.

And now I’ve come full circle. After all this time, I was able to return to the ACT stage, 44 years after the last time I trod those boards (metaphorically speaking, of course. ACT moved into new digs many years ago.) And I fully appreciate the fact that I’m now the age I always pretended to be in my high school plays. In ACT’s “A Christmas Carol” this past week, I was once again playing someone my own age, no longer a hyperkinetic teen, but rather a distinguished and graying Victorian gentleman.

Thanks for the memories, new and old, ACT Theatre!

Tom Tangney on KIRO Radio

About the Author

Tom Tangney

Tom Tangney is the co-host of The Tom and Curley Show on KIRO Radio and resident enthusiast of...everything. As the film and media critic on the Morning News on KIRO Radio, he espouses his love for books, movies, TV, art, pop culture, politics, sports, and Husky football.

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