City Theatre Leads Holiday Charge with ‘Jacob Marley’

If you’re looking for some holiday oriented South Florida Theater fare this season, there’s no better place to start than with “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol,” starring British actor Colin McPhillamy and playing at the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater from Dec. 2-19.

Mr. McPhillamy, who has performed locally at Palm Beach Dramaworks, The Maltz Jupiter Theatre, Florida Stage, Actors Playhouse and The Promethean Theatre, will play 18 roles in this one-man tour de force. It is a retelling of the holiday classic that shifts the story from Ebenezer Scrooge to his former business partner, the long-dead, embittered, chain-rattling ghost, Jacob Marley.

PHOTO COURTESY OF CITY THEATRE. Colin McPhillamy portrays 18 different characters in “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol,” a retelling of the Charles Dickens classic through Marley’s eyes.

“My biggest challenge has been wondering if I can still do this after 20 months of doing very little,” Mr. McPhillamy laughed. “I’m like a bicycle whose wheels haven’t been oiled for quite some time.”

Playing 18 different characters — among them, Marley, Scrooge, and the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future — might also have something to do with it, he added.

“Some of them are just walk-ons, with very few lines,” Mr. McPhillamy said. “But as the larger characters begin to develop some definition, I find I’m encountering what I call Character Attack Syndrome. That’s when the characters start talking to you and taking you over. I’m only half-serious. Some characters are more assertive than others and they want to say the other characters’ lines. But the most important thing in a one-man show like this is not the acting so much as the story. That’s what’s going to engage people.”

Playwright Tom Mula adapted this holiday favorite from his own novella and said he was inspired to write the show after overhearing a child complain, “Marley got a raw deal!” during a production of “A Christmas Carol” in Chicago. In Mr. Mula’s version of the story, Marley, accompanied by a wicked sprite named Bogle, emerges from the Great Beyond to save Scrooge from a fate similar to his own and, in the process, possibly break free of his chains and an eternity of torment.

“I think Mula has done a clever riff on Charles Dickens’ style,” Mr. McPhillamy said. “In so doing, he’s constructed a really brilliant story. And it’s so hopeful. The message of the story is it’s never too late to mend our ways, however bad they are. Things can always be turned around — with a little supernatural assistance.”

City Theatre Artistic Director Margaret Ledford is the production’s director and said she had been planning to do “Jacob Marley” for several years as part of City Theatre’s contribution to the Arsht’s Theatre Up Close series.

“We thought a cheerful holiday play would be great,” Ms. Ledford said. “Then the pandemic set in and it galvanized that decision. We need a story of redemption. We need a story of things getting better. We need a story that affirms we can survive, pull through and see through the worst of things and still manage.”

She added Mr. McPhillamy is an actor who can do anything.

“Not only can he play all of these different characters, but he also has an outstanding heart and such a love for humanity itself,” she said. “That’s the essence of what this play is.”

Ms. Ledford added her biggest challenge in mounting this production has been the limited time they’ve had to get it on its feet.

“But rehearsal is a joy,” she said. “It’s a joy to collaborate with Colin. He brings so much to the table and is such a willing and open performer, both to try whatever I want to bring to it or what we discover together in the process.”

The Arsht Center is located at 1300 Biscayne Blvd. in Miami. Tickets cost $50 and $55 and may be purchased by calling 305-755-9401 or by logging on to either or 

Please note: The Arsht Center remains deeply committed to the health and peace of mind of guests, artists and staff. Based on guidance from national and local health officials, masks and proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test are required. Guests may volunteer proof of vaccination in lieu of a negative test. Learn more at This event will be seated at full capacity. Enhanced cleaning, sanitation and air filtration procedures will be maintained. Any policy changes will be sent directly to ticketholders and updated regularly at

Other South Florida holiday entertainment includes “Madeline’s Christmas” at the Actors Playhouse in Coral Gables from Nov. 30 to Dec. 19. In an old house in Paris live twelve little girls. The day begins like any other day for the girls and their caretaker Miss Clavel, but soon ends in disaster when everyone but Madeline gets the flu. Saddened that they may not be able to go home for Christmas, the girls and Miss Clavel take to their beds. Can Madeline save the day for everyone with the assistance of a mysterious Rug Merchant? The answer is found in this musical based on the popular book series by Ludwig Bemelmans. For ticket information, call 305-444-9293 or log on to

In addition, the Wick Theatre will present “A Winter Spectacular,” featuring cabaret queen Marilyn Maye and her prince, Nicolas King. The two will perform an array of classic holiday and winter tunes backed by a live band conducted by Tedd Firth, joined on stage by some of the best child performers in the area. “A Winter Spectacular” runs Nov. 26 to Dec. 19. Tickets are $75-$95, available at or by calling the box office at 561-995-2333. Pre-show dining at the acclaimed Tavern at The Wick is also available.

Other notable productions raising the curtain during the holiday season:
• Slow Burn Theatre Company’s production of “Kinky Boots” at The Broward Center (Dec. 17 to Jan. 2). Call 954-468-3280.

  • Palm Beach Dramaworks’ production of “The People Downstairs” at the Don and Ann Brown Theatre in West Palm Beach (Dec. 3-19). Call 561-514-4042.

  • Boca Stage’s production of “Unremarkable Death of Marilyn Monroe” at The Sol Theatre in Boca Raton. Call 561-447-8829.

  • Pigs Do Fly Productions’ staging of “Helen on Wheels” at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale. Call 866-811-4111.

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