James Taylor's return to acting took some coaxing
PITTSFIELD -- After he decided to take on the role of Bob Cratchit, James Taylor joked to his wife, Kim, "If it doesn't go well, I'll kill you."
James Taylor will be appearing with Kim and their twins, Rufus and Henry, in the Berkshire Theatre Group's upcoming production of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" at the Colonial Theatre.
Opening night is Saturday, Dec. 17, for the 11-performance run. Tickets go on sale Saturday, Nov. 12, exclusively to Berkshire County residents for three days.
It took some gentle, friendly persuasion to coax the singer-songwriter to appear on stage as a character other than himself for the first time since school days, Kim Taylor said on Thursday.
"He really did give it careful consideration," she said, "because it delays finishing his new studio album" which is now in progress.
But the chance for extended periods of quality family time and the opportunity to co-star with Eric Hill tipped the scales, she said.
Hill is co-directing the production, which opened six years ago at the Berkshire Theatre Festival's 120-seat Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge and is now to be transferred to the 783-seat Colonial. The BTF and the Colonial Theatre merged this year to form the Berkshire Theatre Group.
Kim Taylor reprises her role as Mrs. Cratchit, which she first performed last December; Rufus returns as the Younger Scrooge and his brother, Henry, too big now to repeat his Tiny Tim from last year, plays the Turkey Boy.
"Henry was very sad that he couldn't be Tiny Tim again," his mother said. "But he's too big now to be carried around on the shoulders of Bob Cratchit and Ebenezer Scrooge."
For James Taylor, it's a stretch despite 42 years in the limelight as a performing and recording artist. He recalls appearing in a school production of "Hansel and Gretel" when he was 8 or 9; the family had moved from Boston to Chapel Hill, N.C., because his father had been named dean of medicine at the University of North Carolina.
Back in Massachusetts at Milton Academy, Taylor was in a production of "Arsenic and Old Lace," portraying a gangster, when he was 13.
Since then, except for several TV series cameos playing himself and a role as "The Driver" in the 1972 film "Two-Lane Blacktop," it has been all music, all the time.
"James was reticent about this venture since it's not in his usual repertoire," Mrs. Taylor said. "But we feel like anything we can do in a small way can be helpful since we're part of the community here and it's great to be able to give back."
The Taylors live in the town of Washington.
"Both of us feel really hopeful that Pittsfield is turning a corner. We love living here and raising our kids in the Berkshires," she continued.
"The Colonial is a great institution. Where else can you live in beautiful surroundings and be able to work with this wonderful theater company five minutes down the road?"
She emphasized that all four Taylors had to audition for their roles, just like anyone else.
"I'm sure James is going to have opening night jitters -- we all will, except Eric," she said, "because he's the consummate Scrooge."
Although there are some choral numbers embedded in the production, fans should not expect JT to pick up the guitar for a few post-curtain tunes.
"He's really there to play Bob Cratchit and get into the character," Kim Taylor said.
To reach Clarence Fanto:
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