One of the best things about this play (besides all the fun Christmas, family, moral lessony stuff) is that it is, at its heart, a truly simple play. It is not about thirty different things, as most Shakespeare, Williams, and Classical Greek plays are. It is a play about one thing: a man so greedy for gold he neglects all other areas of his life. This greed dictates his every decision, his every interaction with others. And, as we see in the play, it has left him very empty and very alone.
Why is he like this? What is his motivation? That is the sort of choice that a director (or an author) must make for themselves. If this were my book, then it would be because Scrooge is basically a small, weak man who makes himself powerful through the control of money. In a period of history in which the disparity between rich and poor spread, in which the rise of machines and factories and industrialization brought into question the value of a single human being, he has made himself valuable.
Uploaded to Flickr by Sean Fanning Designs
Alas, this was not the case in the production I saw this winter. Besides several (almost) forgivable production choices (like the four-poster bed pushed up against the window--kind of defeats the purpose of bed curtains--and the fact that every character wore pristine white gloves, stockings and mop caps--in what was arguably the filthiest, grimiest time in British history (see above)--and the creepy puppet people playing the three ghosts) there was one decision that ruined the entire production.
The man cast as Scrooge was fat.What?!? Why? What is the possible justification for this choice? Ebeneezer Scrooge has an ironfast grip on his gold. He owns a giant mansion, but uses only one room to save on heat and servant costs. He is wealthy beyond measure, but pays his one employee a pittance, works himself 364 days a year, and spits on anyone asking for a bit a charity. In what possible universe can we imagine this man, who would rather shiver in an unheated room in winter than pay for the extra coal, would ever consume any more food than was absolutely necessary to keep him alive? Scrooge is not a glutton. He would not dare waste the coin on the superfluous food.
No, this was not the only problem with this production--nor was it the only reason we left the show at intermission--but it is a most unforgivable choice because it went entirely against Scrooge's character. Whatever motivation the director chooses as the source of his greed, how can you possibly justify a gluttonous Scrooge?
Choosing your character's motivation is a critical part of writing, it is the reason they do everything that they do in your book, and is inextricably tied to their goals. In Oh. My. Gods. Phoebe's main goal is to make the cross-country team at her new school and get decent grades. Why is this her goal? What is her motivation? She wants the running scholarship promised to her by the USC coach if she meets these goals. Having a fat Scrooge is as inconceivable as Phoebe saying, "I'm not going to practice today. I just don't feel like it."
When a character does something completely against their motivation, that's when people throw books across the room. Or when they walk out of productions at intermission. In other words, just don't.