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December 12, 2013

Past and present

'Christmas Carol' actress remembers NSMT's first production of the Dickens-inspired musical

Given Leigh Barrett’s long history with “A Christmas Carol,” it’s only fitting that she play the Ghost of Christmas Past.

The Reading actress appeared in North Shore Music Theatre’s first production of the Dickens classic in 1989 and remembers it well.

“I was so in awe of being part of the premiere,” Barrett said. “It was the first year the North Shore was enclosed as a year-round space.”

She also remembers the first person to play Scrooge, Munson Hicks, one of two actors to appear in that role before David Coffee.

“He was an extraordinary Scrooge,” Barrett said. “He had a devilish sense of humor that showed through.”

Coffee, who is playing the miserable miser for the 20th time this year, brings his own distinct charms to the role, Barrett said.

“David really captures to me a nice balance of the curmudgeon and the childlike Scrooge at the end,” she said.

Barrett has appeared in a number of shows at North Shore since 1989, including “The Sound of Music,” “Sweeney Todd” and “My Fair Lady,” but she rejoined the cast of “A Christmas Carol” only two seasons ago.

She also plays Mrs. Cratchit in the musical, a role that is usually paired with the Ghost of Christmas Past because both characters are maternal figures.

“The ghost of the past, the way I portray her, she is sort of the ghost of hope,” Barrett said. “As any mother hopes their child will learn the lesson the first time — not see anything bad and get it right the first time, so we can live happily ever after. And yet he doesn’t.”

Scrooge resists any feeling of sympathy for his fellow man, even after Barrett’s character shows him what he has gained from the love of others and how he suffered from its absence.

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