Michelle Hendrick has seen them come and she’s seen them go.
Henrick plays Belle and the role of Fred’s Wife in Hartford Stage’s “A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas” and is the only actor in the cast to have performed in every one of the 14 annual holiday productions.
“In the first year there was this great energy because it was [then-artistic director Michael Wilson]’s first year,” she says. “We all felt we were on this adventure together, what this play would become and what Hartford Stage was going to be.”
She was also newly married to senior dramaturg Christopher Baker who helped Wilson shape the programming at the theater.
“The shows also coincided with my children,” she says. “The second year I was nine weeks pregnant with [daughter] Hero and in the sixth year I was nine weeks pregnant with [son] Raphael.” She is also pregnant this year and yes, she is about nine weeks along.
Hendrick says she has an especially strong feeling for Belle, Young Scrooge’s true love whom he foresakes for the pursuit of money. “She’s only in one scene but it’s a good dramatic one that goes to many emotional places.”
Henrick, who turns 40 next Tuesday, hasn’t counted but estimates that she’s played the show more than 600 times. “People have been born and died, married and divorced,” she says. And she’s seen Tiny Tims grow to be tall, striking men in their 20s. She says she’s stayed in touch with many of the children in the cast as well as a mother, Kathy Fitzpatrick, who has had four kids in the show. She became the godmother to one of Hendrick’s children.
“But what hasn’t changed are the audiences who have responded warmly to the productions over the years.”
She also names other actors who almost played their roles as long as she has: among them Alan Rust, Johanna Morrison, Curtis Billings, Robert Hannon Davis, Natalie Brown, and of course, Bill Raymond who starred as Scrooge in 12 productions here.
She says she hears that there will be a 15th “Christmas Carol” next year but isn’t sure what shape it will take under the theater’s new artistic director Darko Tresnjak
“I think someone will be taking over my role at some point,” she says, suggesting that this may be her swan song edition.
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