One Christmas Carol: Interview with J. Max Baker

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Christmas
"One Christmas Carol” is a show performed by J. Max Baker and it is a solo adaptation of Charles Dickens' “A Christmas Carol”.



“One Christmas Carol” is a show performed by J. Max Baker and it is a solo adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” that was originally written by his father, Douglas H. Baker, and produced internationally in multiple productions since its Las Vegas premiere in 1995. After making its New York premiere in 2019, performances return December 15 at The Chain Theater in Manhattan.

In this show, one actor plays 34 iconic characters in Charles Dickens’ timeless tale about selfishness and selflessness.  Stripped down to its bare essence, it forgoes the usual opulence of the holidays and focuses only on what is of utmost importance. Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchitt, Tiny Tim, Fezziwig, Belle, and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future are all portrayed.

Max Baker recently discussed this show via an exclusive interview.

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you discover your talent for acting and what was it about plays and the theater that most interested you?

J. Max Baker: I come from a family of performers. My dad was a performer and a director at the Utah Shakespeare festival when I was a kid. He was also a professor of theatre at SUU, in addition to being a bit of a celebrity in the Vegas scene. He wrote and played Merlin in King
Arthur’s Tournament and Tournament of Kings at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino for 13 years. My brothers and I all went to a performing arts high school. We grew up playing and performing for family and friends. I started to carve out my own path as a performer when I began traveling the world on various performance contracts. I enjoy theatre, and storytelling in general, because of the connection shared between you and the audience. You are helping craft an experience, a lesson, or an escape, and – if you are lucky – it’s one that leaves a lasting impression.

MM: How did your father get the idea for this show?

J. Max Baker: My father’s stint as Merlin was a six day a week/two shows a night kind of gig. When he adapted the show, he had been playing Merlin for six years and was looking to do something creative and different. He wanted something that his friends and family could share every year and purposefully made the show family friendly, as all four of his kids were young at the time. He wrote the show with an emphasis on imagination. He wanted to invite the audience to use their imagination to fill in the world as they saw it, through the characters he portrayed.

MM: Why did you decide to continue this production?

J. Max Baker: I had always wanted an opportunity to take up the mantle, but it wasn’t until I was working on a performance contract in Japan that I saw an opportunity. In Japan, Christmas is celebrated more as a novelty or a “lovers holiday”, similar to Valentine’s day. There weren’t many activities or shows for English-speaking expats to access during the holiday season. I thought it would be nice for any Westerners in the area to have something to attend that would ignite in the holiday spirit.

MM: How hard is it to find actors who can play all of these roles?

J. Max Baker: I feel like it’s definitely a challenge to play multiple roles at once, but I also imagine lots of actors would love the opportunity. I think it all depends on if you want to put in the work. It’s not just about how to change your physicality and voice, though that is necessary. It’s how to connect to each individual character and make sure they feel independent of each other while ensuring the heart of the story is always the focus. That is what makes one man shows difficult and a unique challenge for any actor.

MM: What are your favorite things about “A Christmas Carol”?

J. Max Baker: I love the redemption aspect. Scrooge is universally known as a horrible human. He seems to be someone set in their ways and yet he changes. Every time I do the play, I notice something different about his journey and it excites me. I love getting to share any new discovery every time I perform this piece. The original story is quite short but very nuanced. It set the standard for how the holiday should be celebrated and reminds us to always root for the good in people.

MM: What’s your favorite part of this show and why?

J. Max Baker: I have so many favorite parts. If I had to choose just one, I’d say when Scrooge is visiting the Crachit family alongside the ghost of Christmas Present. He witnesses a family who cares for nothing else but spending time and celebrating together – something Scrooge doesn’t quite understand. He gains an interest in Tiny Tim, a spark of empathy is ignited, and he asks Present if Tiny Tim will live. Scrooge is then confronted by the Spirit with his own hateful words: “If he’d be like to die, then they had better do it”. I think it’s an incredibly strong moment where Present, usually jovial, shows the seriousness of Scrooge’s dismissive action. It forces Scrooge to feel something different: whether it’s grief, embarrassment or remorse. It’s humanizing. I truly believe Scrooge could not be redeemed without this moment of humility.

MM: What other projects are you working on right now and what themes might you like to explore in future works?

J. Max Baker: I am currently recording a full-length audiobook with Phantom Canyon Entertainment which is very similar to doing a one person play. I find it super enjoyable and quite time consuming. I am also writing a children’s book for the holidays and am in the early stages of adapting Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein” into another one person play.

MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?

J. Max Baker: As much as I love doing one man shows, I’m also eager to book more ensemble work within the New York theater community. I’m also pursuing more voice overs for animation. If I can make a career out of my ability to do voices and dialects, it would be an absolute dream come true. (I’m looking at you Pixar.) I would like to mention that doing something like this show, although it is a one man show, requires a strong team. I couldn’t do this show without the support that I have from my wife and my parents and our production team. It’s always satisfying when the hard work you put in creates something magical and enjoyable for audiences, and I hope this time is no different!

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ONE CHRISTMAS CAROL runs December 15 -19 at The Chain Theater at 312
West 36th Street. Tickets are available at
onechristmascarol2021.eventbrite.com.